Burma Boy – Biyi Bandele
Burma Boy is a horrific, vividly realised account of the madness, the sacrifice and the dark humour of the Second World War’s most vicious battleground. It’s also the moving story of a boy trying to live long enough to become a man.
A few months ago fourteen-year-old Ali Banana was apprenticed to a whip-wielding blacksmith in his rural hometown. Now its winter 1944, the war is entering its most crucial stage and Ali is a private in Thunder Brigade. His unit has been given orders to go behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. But the Burmese jungle is a mud-riven, treacherous place, riddled with Japanese snipers, insanity and disease.
This book, in part a coming-of-age story of the young Nigerian soldier, Ali Banana, but also a searing and unsettling look at political loyalties and personal friendships in the midst of absolute war. Ali Banana is hilarious in his boyish enthusiasm for ‘King Joji’, even when, at the end of novel, he’s forced to question why he’s even fighting for him. You could read this in a few hours and certainly come away the wiser…