Cover image for The caprices
The caprices
Murray, Sabina.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Physical Description:
210 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Mariner original."
The caprices -- Order of precedence -- Guinea -- Walkabout -- Folly -- Colossus -- Yamashita's gold -- Intramuros -- Position.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From an acclaimed young author of Filipino background comes this history told through individual lives. The Caprices revolves around the Pacific Campaign of World War II. In the wreckage of bombed cities and overcrowded prison camps, there were no winners and no conquerors, and no nation truly triumphed.
Set in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United States, these stories bring to life ordinary people who must rely on extraordinary measures of faith and imagination. In "Order of Precedence," an Indian officer starving to death in a prison camp remembers playing polo during his days in India. In "Folly," the last days of Amelia Earhart are imagined as the Japanese prepare for war. In "Colossus," an American veteran in his eighties recalls the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the infamous death march of 1941. With lyrical prose and searing insight, Sabina Murray brings to light a complex cast of characters. Eloquent, artful, and brimming with raw emotion, these tales capture the gross injustices of war as well as the consequences of survival and the memories that follow. In stories that tell as much about the fluid nature of time as they do about the ghosts that haunt survivors, Sabina Murray establishes herself as a passionate and wise voice.

Author Notes

She grew up in Austrialia & the Philippines. A former Michener Fellow at the University of Texas & Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University, she is the author of the novel Slow Burn. She has also written a screenplay titled Beautiful Country.She is the Roger Murray Writer in Residence at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A caprice in wartime may be a sinister thing or a necessary distraction, and in this shrewd, striking debut collection of nine short stories by novelist (Slow Burn) and screenwriter Murray it is frequently both. The characters of these cleverly crafted tales are bound by the atrocities of WWII in the Pacific and forced to make decisions in situations where hope is in short supply. The survivors are supposedly the lucky ones, though veterans like Australian Bob Cairns in "Walkabout" is horrified to learn he "would only bring the war back to a place that he had hoped to protect from it. He would no longer be a person but a reminder of absences.... He was now an ugly thing, a sore upon the landscape, a battered body which told a story that no one wished to hear." Like Cairns, Murray displays the ravages of war, but she has full confidence in the power of her storytelling ability. Attempting to tell the truth, no matter how gut-wrenching, she also handles humor with laudable finesse, using it to separate those characters who can still appreciate it from those who now find laughter unfamiliar and awkward. In "Guinea," American soldiers Francino and Burns are lost in the jungles of New Guinea with an emaciated Japanese POW who offers them some unexpected comic relief. The narrator of "Intramuros" entertains the reader with mini-tales of her mixed-heritage family; a distant cousin, Benito, is legendary for looting a store "liberated" by the Japanese and trusting a stranger with his prize, a bicycle, while he returns for more. War is an unusual subject for a young female writer; with each piece, Murray proves to be increasingly exceptional. Author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



This could be any village street. The packed dirt could cover any country road, and the dust that rises in billowing sheets, lifted by the lazy hands of the dry season, could menace any provincial town. It is three oclock in the afternoon, but no children wander back from school. The Chinese shopkeepers door has been shut for nearly a year, but no matter, since the children will not bother him for moon cakes, sweet wafers, and candied tamarind. A kalesa driver sits idly by his cart; his horse, unperturbed by the state of affairs, dozes behind blinkers, flicking rhythmically with his tail, one rear hoof casually cocked to bear no weight. In response to a fly, the horse shakes his head, jangling gear and whipping his mane from side to side. The fly rises up, buzzing at a higher pitch. What you are witnessing is war. A woman in a faded floral shift slowly makes her way down the sidewalk. She carries two huge woven bags; one is full of vegetables, the other holds a few canned goods and some dried fish, although a year ago this bag would have been full of meat. The woman has black hair, which she has pulled into a tight bun. Even streaks of gray (a new appearance this last year) break through the black. Her face is thin. She clenches her teeth with the effort necessary to carry her load. She sets down her bags, takes a deep breath, then manages a few more steps. The faded cloth of her dress is damp with perspiration. She wears a scarf wrapped around her neck, which must be uncomfortable in this heat. She sees the kalesa. She waves, then calls. The driver lifts his head. He was dreaming. The beautiful washerwoman was offering him a rice cake. The cake was blue. She was smiling at him with perfect teeth. "This is for you," she said. The beautiful washerwoman moved her hips from side to side. She smiled slyly. "Take the cake . . ." And then the sight of Mrs. Garcia waving at him down the street. She can barely manage. It is 1943. Imagine, a woman of such standing carrying her own groceries, there on the street, bareheaded in the early afternoon heat. Imagine all that gray hair, overnight, it seems. He closes his eyes again; sadly, the beautiful washerwoman is gone. He pulls himself to his feet. "Oo po," he shouts, although lazily, in Mrs. Garcias direction. Oo po = the polite greeting, but the driver manages to make it sound like an insult. What will she do, this woman? She isnt wealthy anymore. She is merely someone who was once wealthy, which is still worth something = she has held on to her house. He pats his horses dusty shoulder. What sentimental urge has made him keep Diablo alive? He knows the horse will be stew meat within a month or so. How can he feel sorry for his horse when his brother and little son are dead? It is easy to feel sorry for a horse, even easy to feel sorry for Mrs. Garcia, who has never had to carry b Excerpted from The Caprices by Sabina Murray All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

The Capricesp. 1
Order of Precedencep. 25
Guineap. 55
Walkaboutp. 77
Follyp. 101
Colossusp. 121
Yamashita's Goldp. 147
Intramurosp. 179
Positionp. 195