When the Japanese conquered the Philippines in 1942, hundreds of Allied civilians were herded into civilian prison camps. Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma is set in the Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila, where people scraped by to survive.
Irene Reynolds was raised by missionaries in the Philippines, and is interned with her beloved aunt. At Santo Tomas, she works at the censor’s office, transcribing letters and messages for the internees from the outside world under the heavy scrutiny of Japanese soldiers. One day she transcribes a cryptic message for Rand Sterling, a handsome playboy nightclub owner, but is forced to leave off a crucial part. She decides to alert Rand, but she’s too late, and Rand is arrested and sent to the notorious Fort Santiago.
When Rand is unexpectedly released, he’s sent to the hospital, where Irene is nursing her sick aunt. Although Irene and Rand couldn’t be more different, they strike up a friendship. But could a missionary girl and a slick playboy ever create a life together? And can they survive the increasingly difficult conditions in the camp?
Remember the Lilies explores a little-known and fascinating aspect of World War II, illuminating the difficulty of life in the civilian prison camps and the daily decisions on how much to cooperate with the enemy. Rand and Irene’s romance is surprisingly realistic, given their extreme differences, and Rand’s transformation is believable and touching. Although the story isn’t an easy read, it is a very good one. I highly recommend this novel.