In the uneasy aftermath of war, a group of ordinary, civilised people on an island off Java face the legacy of hatred and corruption left by the Japanese occupation. With sudden and violent death ever present, they seize their moments of happiness and try above all else to stay alive until the opportunity for release arrives. Selfishness, sex, greed, fear, revenge, all play their part; so too do the finer instincts of love, loyalty and concern, for people have a way of both hurting and caring for one another. Men and women, soldiers and civilians, Europeans and Asians - Dirk Bogarde brings each of them alive through his marvellously witty dialogue and penetrating sense of character. At times gloriously funny, never sitting in judgement, he portrays their fallible, complex humanity as the thin skin of conventional behaviour, tautened in the corrosive atmosphere of the East Indies, gradually begins to split. As compelling as it is enjoyable to read, Dirk Bogarde's novel is both a delightful comedy of manners and an incisive study of people under pressure. From beginning to end it is original, and unmistakably true to life. A Gentle Occupation is a story about survival, and the price that has to be paid for it.

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