Hong Kong 1943. Marie Broom is at home on Hong Kong Island when the Japanese invade. She is Portuguese Chinese, 27 years old, the mother of four young children, with live-in amah’s, and now frantic with worry. Her New Zealand husband, Vincent, is working in Singapore as a marine engineer, and it is not long before Singapore falls to the Japanese also.
A Message for Nasty follows the fate of Marie and Vincent over the next two years, separated from each other and without any means to communicate. Marie does her best to protect her children, but danger, starvation and death lurk on every corner. She faces a stark choice as time goes on, to be interned in a Red Cross camp where she is guaranteed she can feed her children, but to do so means giving up on the possibility of ever being reunited with her husband while Hong Kong is occupied.
Vincent tries desperately to escape occupied Singapore and eventually embarks on a perilous journey across China to try to rescue his family.
A Message for Nasty is a gripping, page-turning read, a novel that packs an even bigger emotional punch when you learn the story is based on the author’s grandfather and grandmother. It brings vividly to life the chilling occupation of the Japanese in Hong Kong, especially for young women, and the extraordinary story of a husband and father willing to go to any lengths to rescue his family. As for the title? You will need to read the book to understand, but ‘Nasty’ is an integral part of this story.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan