From jacket flap:
The first edition of this book was sold out very shortly after publication, although at a first glance it might have appeared to be just another story of the horrors and privations of the prisoners in Japanese hands. But, unlike his predecessors in this field of literature, the author is not primarily concerned with the objective side of the ordeal, but with the answers to the questions which so many thousands of friends and relatives have asked their returning men and so few have been able to put into words. What was the mental reaction to this ordeal? How was it possible for any but the fittest to survive?
Peter Hartley, who was 21 years old at the time of the capitulation of Singapore, sets out to show us, as one of the ‘other ranks’ in the British Army, just what his personal feelings and those of his comrades were.
Through his sensitive eyes we see the effect of the surrender upon the men on the spot. Then, as the paradox of the title implies, we accompany him on his impulsive attempt to escape, and we share the adventure which leads to eventual capture in Sumatra. The mental and physical struggle to survive the three and a half years of captivity, including his escape from a torpedoed ‘hell’ ship, the tortuous hours of slave labour, and the battle against disease and hunger. All these are woven into a story which is not only exciting in itself, but one in which the pathos, and sometimes the humour, of the situations are naturally evoked.