I attended a very interesting talk last week with the National Women’s Register. Merilyn Brason has written her mother’s story about her time in a prisoner of war camp. Her mother, Ronny Rynd, was holidaying in the Baugio region in the mountains while her husband was still in Manila when Pearl Harbour happened.
Rynd was pregnant with her older daughter at the time. This daughter is born in the camp. Brason was actually conceived in the camp.
Rynd‘s first camp is more benign that the one where she eventually resides. She fights the authorities to be allowed to join her husband at the overcrowded Manila camp.
How do these camps compare with the ones the Nazis created? They seem as cruel and the human spirit overcomes as well here, A whole society develops and I’m reminded of what happens when Clara in Clara’s Story is Theresienstadt. It does seem though that it was easier for men and women to mix here than it was in the German-built camps.
Brason relies on her mother’s letters and notes and also remembers the anecdotes her mother told her family. Rynd always wanted her story to be told but couldn’t seem to marshal her material into a coherent shape. Rynd has done that.
I asked her a little about the process. Did she have to leave out some material? No, in fact she had to do more research in order to complete the story. I wasn’t able to check but I suspect she used those three writer’s tools that I have discussed often:
- Primary resources
- Repeated experience
- Writer’s imagination
There is one big difference between me and Brason. I am a writer and I was pleased to find my material in order to be able to write this cycle of books. Brason doesn’t see herself as a writer but was confronted with this material and felt obliged to write the story.
We have in common that we are telling the story of someone who no longer has the voice to tell their own story. We also have both found some rich primary resources. We make our work readable by using techniques employed in fiction.
I have to confess to not having read the book yet but it is on order. I shall do another review of it once I have read it.