Burma Boy by Biyi Bandele

Burma Boy

Biyi Bandele

This is a fictionalised account of black African soldiers fighting in Burma. Fourteen year old Ali Banana lies about his age to join the British army and be with his friends on the big adventure. It’s a vicious experience, tempered only by the comradeship and love that the men have for each other. This skilful portrayal is not just another World War Two story and will appeal a much wider range of readers – in the end, the war is secondary to the humour and poignancy of the soldiers and especially Ali.

Extract

They all felt grateful to be inside the trenches. In this frightening place called Burma, to be lying huddled in a stinking hole in the ground on a bed that looked like a coffin felt like being inside a palace. Banana stretched out on his groundsheet and shut his
eyes, feeling if not exactly like a prince, then at least grateful to be alive. Minutes later, he sprang up with a start, awakened by a loud explosion coming from the jungle behind him. A Jap's body was found there the next morning with a hole in his small-legged, thin shouldered body stretching from his left foot to the back of his head.
'I can't sleep either,' Damisa's voice said in the dark. 'Want some tea? I've just boiled a kettle.'

Parallels
  • Burma by E W Elliott
  • Chindit in The Voice of War poems of The Second World War by K N Batley
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
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Violence