The Flamboya Tree

Paperback $15.00

Random House Trade Paperbacks | Apr 08, 2003 | 240 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | ISBN 9780812966855

  • Paperback$15.00

    Random House Trade Paperbacks | Apr 08, 2003 | 240 Pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | ISBN 9780812966855

  • Ebook$11.99

    Random House | Oct 19, 2011 | 240 Pages | ISBN 9781588361509

Praise

Advance praise for
The Flamboya Tree

“The Flamboya Tree is that rare treasure—a memoir so powerful and
vivid that it draws the past into the present and
makes us all history’s creatures.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

“Sometimes the history of war hides its best stories, its fine,
quiet stories. The Flamboya Tree is such a story, with some kinship to Nicholas Gage’s Eleni, and, in the same extraordinary way,
is about the triumph of love and compassion and decency.”
—Alan Furst, author of Kingdom of Shadows

“Surefooted and bighearted, Kelly’s narrative offers testimony to
the sustaining power of dignity and courage in the face of
impossible circumstance.”
—Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun

“As Clara Kelly honors her mother’s memory, we are reminded that
not all the heroes of World War II faced the bullets of the battlefield.”
—James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers

“The Flamboya Tree is like a bright jewel found in the dust of
fading history. I was bowled over by this book.”
—Carolyn See, author of The Handyman

“Simply told, deeply felt, Kelly’s The Flamboya Tree shows us
that adversity can transform our lives into courageous,
life-affirming works of art.”
—Gwyn Hyman Rubio, author of Icy Sparks


From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

Interview with Clara Olink Kelly

RH:
How do you feel about the way your mother handled the reunion with your father and their subsequent divorce? What effect did your mother’s desire to behave within a certain code of conduct have on you and your siblings?

CK: I have always felt incredibly sorry for my mother because she tried so hard to do the right thing. In spite of the way my father treated her, i.e., not supporting her in the care of us children, or not securing those hard-to-obtain passages home on the boat, she still hoped to work matters out between them. She willingly followed him to Switzerland to try to make a new start, then also agreed to go back to Ceylon with him. For us children it was a big relief when my mother finally told us that they were getting a divorce. We had been very aware of the tension between them.


RH: The animosity of the Indonesians present in the book possesses an underlying force. In hindsight, how do you feel about the Dutch colonizing this part of the world?

CK: Though the colonization of the Dutch East Indies caused a definite feeling of resentment among the Indonesians, I really do feel in hindsight that the people were a lot better off. There was stability then, whereas now different factions are constantly fighting one another to gain power.

RH: What do you think led to your grandmother’s difficulty in understanding what you and your family had been through? Do you think her behavior is indicative of feelings many people could have had if they haven’t lived through a traumatizing experience?

CK: I think the shock of seeing how starved and utterly wretched we looked made my grandmother angry that my parents did not try harder to escape. Though life in Holland under Hitler was extremely difficult, my grandmother was still able to live in her beautiful, big house, and always had enough food in spite of the rationing. She simply did not know, and I believe did not want to know, just how bad times had been for us. It’s almost as though she felt guilty that we had had to live through this extreme cruelty when all along she and most Dutch people thought that they were the ones enduring the worst hardships.


RH: How does your relationship with your brothers — who were with you in the camp — compare with that of you and your sister, who was born after the war?

CK: I’m very close to my brothers. Willem was my hero. He always knew about interesting things, and I thought he was so clever. I felt safe when he was around. Gijs was my “baby” brother and I worried constantly about him. I always felt the need to protect him. There was a very strong bond among the three of us because we intimately shared fear, hunger, and pain on a daily basis. This bond does not exist between my sister and myself. Though I love my sister dearly and could not have been more excited when she was born, I never had to worry about her well-being. She was never hungry or in danger. There was none of this needy, nurturing love that I shared with my brothers. She always got what she wanted or needed, and we never had to rely on each other for anything.

RH: What kind of long-term effects did you and your brothers experience from your imprisonment?

CK: I really don’t know what the long-term effects were for my brothers. Gijs, I think, suffered the least psychologically, as he was so very young. He is a very outgoing, self -assured man who has always loved adventure and has gone after it. Willem, on the other hand, a very quiet, gentle, and kind man, is much more withdrawn and serious. I am still the one who worries about everyone and everything. My family laughs at the amount of food I always have available in my pantry because I can’t cope with the thought that anyone is hungry. They call it my “Mini Mart.” I still suffer from the occasional night terrors that have plagued me my whole life, but otherwise I’m a very happy person and really enjoy life.






From the Hardcover edition.

 

Interview with Clara Olink Kelly

RH:
How do you feel about the way your mother handled the reunion with your father and their subsequent divorce? What effect did your mother’s desire to behave within a certain code of conduct have on you and your siblings?

CK: I have always felt incredibly sorry for my mother because she tried so hard to do the right thing. In spite of the way my father treated her, i.e., not supporting her in the care of us children, or not securing those hard-to-obtain passages home on the boat, she still hoped to work matters out between them. She willingly followed him to Switzerland to try to make a new start, then also agreed to go back to Ceylon with him. For us children it was a big relief when my mother finally told us that they were getting a divorce. We had been very aware of the tension between them.


RH: The animosity of the Indonesians present in the book possesses an underlying force. In hindsight, how do you feel about the Dutch colonizing this part of the world?

CK: Though the colonization of the Dutch East Indies caused a definite feeling of resentment among the Indonesians, I really do feel in hindsight that the people were a lot better off. There was stability then, whereas now different factions are constantly fighting one another to gain power.

RH: What do you think led to your grandmother’s difficulty in understanding what you and your family had been through? Do you think her behavior is indicative of feelings many people could have had if they haven’t lived through a traumatizing experience?

CK: I think the shock of seeing how starved and utterly wretched we looked made my grandmother angry that my parents did not try harder to escape. Though life in Holland under Hitler was extremely difficult, my grandmother was still able to live in her beautiful, big house, and always had enough food in spite of the rationing. She simply did not know, and I believe did not want to know, just how bad times had been for us. It’s almost as though she felt guilty that we had had to live through this extreme cruelty when all along she and most Dutch people thought that they were the ones enduring the worst hardships.


RH: How does your relationship with your brothers — who were with you in the camp — compare with that of you and your sister, who was born after the war?

CK: I’m very close to my brothers. Willem was my hero. He always knew about interesting things, and I thought he was so clever. I felt safe when he was around. Gijs was my “baby” brother and I worried constantly about him. I always felt the need to protect him. There was a very strong bond among the three of us because we intimately shared fear, hunger, and pain on a daily basis. This bond does not exist between my sister and myself. Though I love my sister dearly and could not have been more excited when she was born, I never had to worry about her well-being. She was never hungry or in danger. There was none of this needy, nurturing love that I shared with my brothers. She always got what she wanted or needed, and we never had to rely on each other for anything.

RH: What kind of long-term effects did you and your brothers experience from your imprisonment?

CK: I really don’t know what the long-term effects were for my brothers. Gijs, I think, suffered the least psychologically, as he was so very young. He is a very outgoing, self -assured man who has always loved adventure and has gone after it. Willem, on the other hand, a very quiet, gentle, and kind man, is much more withdrawn and serious. I am still the one who worries about everyone and everything. My family laughs at the amount of food I always have available in my pantry because I can’t cope with the thought that anyone is hungry. They call it my “Mini Mart.” I still suffer from the occasional night terrors that have plagued me my whole life, but otherwise I’m a very happy person and really enjoy life.






From the Hardcover edition.

Also by Clara Kelly

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