Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis
Read in late November 2014
British bestselling author Damien Lewis is an award-winning journalist who has spent twenty years reporting from war, disaster, and conflict zones. Now Lewis brings his first-rate narrative skills to bear on the inspiriting tale of Judy–an English pointer who perhaps was the only canine prisoner of war.
After being bombed and shipwrecked repeatedly while serving for several wild and war-torn years as a mascot of the World War II Royal Navy Yangtze river gunboats the Gnat and the Grasshopper, Judy ended up in Japanese prisoner of war camps in North Sumatra. Along with locals as slave labor, the American, Australian, and British POWs were forced to build a 1,200-mile single-track railroad through the most horrifying jungles and treacherous mountain passes. Like the one immortalized in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, this was the other death-railroad building project where POWs slaved under subhuman conditions.
In the midst of this living hell was a beautiful and regal-looking liver and white English pointer named Judy. Whether she was scavenging food to help feed the starving inmates of a hellish Japanese POW camp, or by her presence alone bringing inspiration and hope to men, she was cherished and adored by the Allied servicemen who fought to survive alongside her.
Judy’s uncanny ability to sense danger, matched with her quick thinking and impossible daring saved countless lives. More than a close companion she shared in both the men’s tragedies and joys. It was in recognition of the extraordinary friendship and protection she offered amidst the unforgiving and savage environment of a Japanese prison camp in Indonesia that she gained her formal status as a POW. From the author of The Dog Who Could Fly and the co-author of Sergeant Rex and It’s All About Treo comes one of the most heartwarming and inspiring tales you will ever read.
Reminded me quite a bit of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, but not as well written.
I love a good dog story, but Judy became a minor player during most of this book. The author’s writing style also left a bit to be desired, telegraphing each and every chapter with the doom foreshadowed. Until the very last chapter, things never got better, only worse, for Judy and her fellow POWs.
I went ahead and gave it as high a rating as I did because I felt deeply the plight of Judy and the Allied POWs in Sumatra. Especially poignant the epilogue, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.
The book also suffered from a lack of maps. If you’re going to talk about war, armed conflict, naval battles, building railroads, etc., it helps immensely to provide decent maps of the places you are referring to by name only. And there’s usually some photographs, but strangely, this non-fiction book did not offer any photographs, outside of the cover.
My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read the eARC of Judy: A Dog in a Million, available from your favorite book retailer next Tusday, December 2, 2014.
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