Having read two books back to back about World War Two pilots and nurses, I found only two similarities: They’re both fiction based on fact and they’re both about women. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg is funny and focuses on one of my pet peeves: how women rarely got (and often continue to not get) credit for what they do. A Pledge of Silence by Flora J. Solomon—well, I couldn’t’ find one funny line in it. It isn’t that kind of story.
Solomon’s tale tells about the nurses held captive by the Japanese in the Philippines. It centers on Margie, a young nurse in her mid-twenties, who didn’t want to be a nurse in the first place, and who ends up enduring starvation, humiliation and the loss of loving friends during three years in a prison camp. The story doesn’t end with joy and cheers, however, after her rescue and repatriation. Solomon takes the story beyond Margie’s homecoming to her struggles with PTSD, although it wasn’t called that then.
I found Solomon’s storytelling clear and engaging, with realistic dialogue. I especially like that she doesn’t strive for political correctness. Margie speaks and thinks of the Japanese as “Nips” and “yellows.” If she didn’t, the book would lose its historical context and tone. It would be less edgy and believable without them.
A Pledge of Silence is a good read for not only history buffs (World War Two in particular), but also for people struggling to understand the odd, often bizarre, behavior of friends and loved ones returning from active war duty—and we, sadly, have many of those.
A Pledge of Silence is a page-turner. Even though I expected Margie to survive, the question was “how well?”