1942. Tens of thousands of brave young soldiers become prisoners of war when Japanese forces overrun Singapore. Churchill calls it “the greatest disaster ever to have befallen the British Empire”. Eric Lomax, a 21 year old Signals Engineer and railway enthusiast, is one of the surrendered men. Sent to work on the construction of the notorious Death Railway in Thailand, Eric witnesses unimaginable suffering; men forced to hack through rock and jungle with their bare hands, beaten, starved and prey to tropical diseases. He builds a secret radio to bring hope. As he whispers news of Hitler’s defeats or American advances in the Pacific, a thousand backs straighten and exhausted, desperate men resolve to survive another day.
When the radio is discovered, Eric faces beatings, interrogation and worse. Barely surviving the war he returns home, like so many others, to a country unable to imagine what he and his colleagues have been through. Haunted by the face of one young Japanese officer, he shuts himself off from the world.
And then one day, decades later, he meets a beautiful woman - on a train, of course. She makes him laugh for the first time. They court like teenagers and marry quickly. But on their wedding night Eric’s nightmares return; the young Japanese officer dragging him back to the horrors of the past, insisting the war is not over. Patti finds him screaming on the bedroom floor. Humiliated and confused, Eric disappears inside himself again, turning his silent fury on his wife, making her life unbearable.
Patti struggles to find out what torments the man she loves. Battling the code of silence that unites the former prisoners of war she persuades the enigmatic Finlay to tell her a shocking secret. The Japanese officer who holds the key to what really happened to her husband is still alive, and Finlay knows where he is. Patti must decide: should Eric, a man desperate for revenge, be given this information? Will she stand by him, whatever he does?
Her decision sets up a return to Thailand for a stunning, unexpected and ultimately triumphant finale to an extraordinary true story of heroism, humanity and the redeeming power of love.