It’s winter 1944 and the Second World War is entering its most crucial stage. A few months ago Ali Banana was apprenticed to a whip-wielding blacksmith in his rural hometown; now he’s behind enemy lines, trekking through the Burmese jungle, a private in Thunder Brigade. He is fourteen years old.
Led by the scarred, charismatic Sergeant Damisa, Thunder Brigade has been given orders to go behind enemy lines and wreak havoc. But the jungle is a treacherous place, riddled with Japanese snipers, infection and disease. As torrential rains turn the landscape into a mud-riven death trap, the losses mount up, Ali’s sanity falters and troubling questions arise. Who, for instance, is ‘Kingi Jogi’? What does his empire stand for? And what does it all mean for Banana and the men of Thunder Brigade and their inspirational general?
'Burma Boy' is also the story of Orde Wingate, the raw-onion-chomping, Bible-wielding maverick genius who was infamous for regaling guests in his home with accounts of great biblical military heroes while completely naked. With faultless characterisation Biyi Bandele has taken real-life battles and historical figures and woven a story that is moving, horrific and always brilliantly executed. The story takes the reader from the jungles of Burma to a malaria-induced drunken adventure through the streets of Cairo depicting in brilliant detail historical characters including Benito Mussolini and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and his own nation’s fight for freedom.
'Burma Boy' is a story of the adventure of war and the terrible consequences of that adventure. Biyi Bandele’s novel is a meticulously researched, elegantly written tribute to the Africans who fought in the Second World War – detailing the madness, the horror, the sacrifice and the dark humour of its most vicious battleground.