2020 Reviews · historical fiction · World War II

New Release Book Review: The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Bird in the Bamboo Cage

Author: Hazel Gaynor

Published: September 2nd 2020

Publisher: Harper Collins – GB

Pages: 400

Genres:  Fiction, Historical

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4.5 stars

China, 1941. With Japan’s declaration of war on the Allies, Elspeth Kent’s future changes forever. When soldiers take control of the missionary school where she teaches, comfortable security is replaced by rationing, uncertainty and fear.

Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School. Now the enemy, separated indefinitely from anxious parents, the children must turn to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – for help. But worse is to come when the pupils and teachers are sent to a distant internment camp. Unimaginable hardship, impossible choices and danger lie ahead.

Inspired by true events, this is the unforgettable story of the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher, in a remote corner of a terrible war.


Irish Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor returns with her new historical novel, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. A compelling and heart rendering tale, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage relays a story of war, separation, friendship, hardship, loyalty, resilience, courage and strength. An unforgettable cast, a rich historical background and a vivid setting base defines this strong new novel from trusted author Hazel Gaynor.

Based in China in the early 1940s, we meet Elspeth, a missionary school teacher who finds her life and the students in her care in danger when soldiers descend on their school. Life at the missionary school soon changes as anxiety and uncertainty takes hold. For little Nancy Plummer, her life as a student at the missionary school is forever changed by the onslaught of the soldiers on their living quarters. Life soon becomes even tougher for this school community when they are banished from Chefoo and sent far away to an internment camp. This is an overwhelming time of fear, peril and hard times. To survive they must rely on each other and the bonds they have formed to overcome these challenging times.

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is the sixth independent release by Hazel Gaynor. Hazel Gaynor is also known for her collaboration efforts with fellow historical fiction novelist Heather Webb, but The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is her own historical fiction release. I really appreciated the level of historical detail and insight that this book offered.

Narrated from two very different but highly compelling points of view, The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is a moving tale that shifts effortlessly from a missionary teacher’s perspective to a student in her care. I really appreciated the technique of employing two connecting but contrasted viewpoints to unveil this remarkable historical tale. I think Hazel Gaynor did an excellent job of capturing the innocence and naivety of student Nancy. This is offset by Elspeth Kent’s experiences as a devoted missionary teacher. Elspeth must summon all the strength, courage and leadership she can to rally her student troops in the tough times they face throughout this tale.

Hazel Gaynor presents and enlightening and historically well informed account of occupied China during the Second World War. The uncertain times and the situations faced by the Chefoo School community utterly broke my heart. However, the courage, inner strength and bravery displayed by these women, children and staff warmed my heart. I think that this aspect of the novel truly made it a special read.

A five page author note, a further reading page and a set of discussion questions supports The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. There is absolutely no doubting the commitment to the research side of things Hazel Gaynor has applied to her new novel. I came away feeling not only impressed, but historically better informed thanks to the events covered in The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. Most of all, I valued the focus on the Girl Guides and Brownies within the context of the war. As a Brownie in my younger days, I found this to be an excellent angle to focus on for a historical fiction novel.

Hazel Gaynor has successfully composed a touching tale of friendship, hope, endurance and positivity in the face of war. I think that readers who have a vested interest in wartime relations will find The Bird in the Bamboo Cage to be a worthwhile experience.

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor was published on 2nd September 2020 by Harper Collins – GB. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Bird in the Bamboo Cage, Hazel Gaynor, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

15 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor

      1. I don’t really understand why they do it, to be frank. I guess it is all tied up in marketing, but I’m American and I prefer the UK title – far more appealing than the US title. If I hadn’t been on the lookout for a book by this author, I might have not even given this book a second glance with the US title.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry… I just think that the US title is not nearly as evocative as the UK title – it feels… like they dumbed down the title for the US market, as if Americans wouldn’t understand or appreciate the original UK title. I love the UK title, but the US title just doesn’t speak to me. If I hadn’t been interested in reading a book by Gaynor, the US title might have put me off the book altogether. That would have been unfortunate indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

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