A Choice of Evils

Meira Chand, Author
Meira Chand, Author George Weidenfeld & Nicholson $27 (0p) ISBN 978-0-297-81743-7
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1931
The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 and the ensuing horrors of WWII provide the background for Chand's (House of the Sun) harrowing exploration of the moral dilemmas presented by war. An internationally diverse group of characters endure the savage force of Japanese imperialism and confront the worst aspects of human nature in their conquerors and themselves. They are: a beautiful Russian woman, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; a conscious-stricken Japanese diplomat; an Indian would-be revolutionary, manipulated by brutal Japanese handlers; a British journalist, driven to document the destruction but tortured by the ambition behind the need; a peace-loving, Red-sympathizing Chinese professor; and an expatriate American doctor and her two daughters. Chand uses them to examine the effect of war and torture on character, and the triumph of the human spirit over wrenching trials. The novel's strength lies in her knowledge and tolerance of the different cultures from which her characters come. She does not shy away from describing the pure horror of heinous acts, even while she attempts to maintain an evenhanded historical perspective. Wooden dialogue fails to enliven the players, but their reactions and emotions are authentically depicted. The scenes of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal that conclude the story add useful (if rather didactic) documentation. This often searing work affirms that life is choice, but not always a choice of evils. (Oct.)
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