Sunset Over Java, by Jacobus E. de Vries


A few months after the book descibed below was completed I created an ebook version of Sunset Over Java. One can download this Kindle exclusive at: www.amazon.com. Many of the illustrations in the book--which include Japanese-Indonesian currency, sketches of the camps by Dutch prisoners-of-war, maps, and more--can be seen in color in the e-book.

Sunset Over Java Cover


My job was to format the book for publication on Amazon's CreateSpace, and to situate four maps and 31 carefully selected images within the text, each as close as possible to the point in the story where it is most relevant. I also handled the technical aspects of getting the book onto the CreateSpace platform. The striking cover to the left was designed by Paulette Webb.

Mr. de Vries' story is a compelling one. Much of it is told in the voice of a young Dutch boy describing his feelings and experiences in a series of Japanese prison camps on Java during WWII. Once free, he struggled to pull together a life after tremendous loss at a vulnerable age, was shuffled from country to country, did poorly in school, but eventually found himself at Harvard. The goal of the story is to inspire, but not by providing "pat" answers or platitudes. It's a tale of setbacks and resilience, and of luck--both bad and good.

Sunset Over Java is also a timely WWII story, and of special interest in that it takes place in an arena unfamiliar to many Americans. US troops did not fight in this area, and it was still part of the Netherlands East Indies when the Japanese invaded. Sunset is a reminder of the vast sea power of the Dutch in the seventeenth century, the colonies it had governed for centuries, and the abrupt end of Dutch control. In an appendix as well as throughout the book, Mr. de Vries provides historical and geopolitical context for the events he describes. 

Among the illustrations are lively drawings of life in the Japanese prison camps on Java, including some wonderful cartoons that show how humor can be found in the worst of situations. Mr. de Vries commissioned the maps for the book, and he has also added an extensive, well-annotated bibliography. 

It's a great story! Available at Amazon.com. Click here: Sunset Over Java, by Jack de Vries.

One note to those who know me and share my liberal politics: This book is not "politically correct." It employs terms like "jap" that were in the vernacular of the time. While I do not share Mr. de Vries's politics, I was moved by this story of a boy who survived great trials. Sunset Over Java was serendipitiously published exactly seventy years from the day when the book begins.