Book: Pai Naa, the story of Nona Baker
The book retraces the story of this woman, Nona Baker and her brother Vin in Malaya, before and during world war II. Mrs Thatcher and Mr Cross rewrote her words in a very touching, almost naive way. These two characters as well as the people of Malaya around them had to flee to the jungle to be safe from the Japanese who invaded Singapore first, then whole Malaya. These were terrible times, but the way Mrs Baker tells the story makes it sometimes sound like a tale. Only some parts of the book are really sad (Vin's death, for example) or terrible (the execution of 4 old men in the communists' camp), but even then it lasts only a few lines and then her good mood is back. I cannot start to picture how I would have felt like if I had had to go through all that, including suffering malaria in a rain-washed hut in the middle of the jungle, and yet nothing seems to have really hurt her. Of course the story has been written years after it all happened, so probably the memories were softened by the distance in time.
How I got this book is a nice story: A few years ago we spent some time in Kuantan, on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula. During this stay, I went one day to visit a small village named Sungei Lembing, which was hosting the remanins of what had been the biggest underground tin mine in Malaysia, and one of the biggest in the world. It was a nice visit, and whie I was walking through the small museum, I noticed extracts of a book hanging on the walls. The book was the story of Nona Baker. It really sounded like a nice read, so I wrote down the book's reference.
When we came back to Switzerland, however, I was utterly unable to find the book in any bookshop. The editing house had apparently gone bankrupt or disappeared. Finally, however, I was able to find one in a second hand bookshop on Internet, located in New Zealand! The price was very reasonable, so I ordered it straight away, and I got it a few days later. It was actually a previous exemplary of Auckland's public library, as it seems, because it still has stamps and other markings in it.
It was really a nice read, especially because it was not dry like sometimes history books can be. It was a first hand account of the difficulties encountered during the war in the jungle. Though it is very hard to find, I really recommend it to anyone interested in Malaysia or in history generally.