scopic press


Ashes From Annam

Author: Thierry de Roland Peel

In the dying days of World War II Saigon was convulsed. British and French forces landed and seized control from the Japanese who surrendered leaving a chasm open for a small cadre loyal to Ho chi Minh to appear and demanding independence.

This is a story of one family's attempt to survive the horrors of Japanese occupation, the mayhem that followed, and how their lives depended upon their intrepid dog Mephisto.

• Mass Market Paperback

released: 10 February, 2022

Available at: Monument Books, Phnom Penh

• Ebook

released: 10 February, 2022


Delightfully told, Ashes from Annam offers rare personal insights into the hardships endured under Japanese occupation in World War II by Europeans in a foreign land. It deserves its place on the bookshelves along François Bizot's The Gate and Jon Swain's River of Time.

Luke Hunt, author of "The Punji Trap".

French Indochina between WW II and the First Indochina War, a period which is hardly taken into account in history textbooks. As it took place between two major events, this period was subsequently ignored. Through the eyes of his mother, the author successfully brings us into the life of a European family in war and post-war Saigon, a period which has its share of uncertainties and horrors. We already have Jean Escoffier’s “le crépuscule des blancs” about the same period in Phnom Penh, but we were in great need of the Saigon version of the same events. Thanks to Thierry de Roland Peel’s must-read “Ashes of Annam”, this task has been accomplished.

Jean-Michel Filippi, "Professor of Linguistics, Royal University of Phnom Penh"

Wartime Saigon, under Japanese occupation during WWII, is a dangerous place for many who live there, including the mother and grandparents of author Thierry de Roland Peel. In “Ashes From Annam” de Roland Peel brings to life the very real fears and tribulations of his family as they struggled with day-to-day survival and an even scarier, uncertain future as France’s control of its colonies in Indochina started to fall apart.

Michael Hayes, Editor-in-Chief, Phnom Penh Post (1992-2008)

From time to time little historical gems are published which greatly add to our understanding of past events. “Ashes from Annam” is such a gem, humorously written but still keeping meticulously account of the historical record.

The book deals with the travails of a French family in French Indochina, during the Japanese occupation, who like many other European settlers had established their homes in the colony hoping to build a better life for their families escaping the horrors of Nazism in Europe.

The story is told through the eyes of Madame Josette de Roland-Peel, mother of the author, who kept extensive diaries and personal correspondence of that period with additional research by the author.

The descriptions of daily life in the former Indochinese colony is second to none and I particularly enjoyed that of the vendor of Chinese soup known as “Catiou” which adds a colorful flavor to the story.

The family’s dog “Mephisto” plays a leading role as the tale develops and the reader is left with the impression that the lives of the family members often depended upon the instinct of the faithful and fearless animal.

This is a book that will appeal to historians as well as to the general public and deserves a place among other books dedicated to the former French Indochina.

Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres, PhD, Author of "The Royal House of Cambodia" (2018)

“Ashes from Annam” presents a vivid personal account of the mayhem events that took place in French Indochina during World War II. It tells the story of an innocent young lady and her family tossed into a horrifying new reality; how caught into a web of fast-paced world developments, influenced by external forces only, one’s life could be completely shattered, and yet build anew through determination and with good faith.

The story is remarkably well told, the narrative smooth and captivating. The author offers us a testament to human perseverance in times of great turmoil, such that it gradually makes it impossible to distinguish between a friend and a foe, when friendships and loyalties are savoured but others forged.

The book offers an exceptional perspective on how major international currents can not only affect, but could also actively shape life stories, where a person can only strive to act in dignity, kindness and compassion.

Marinela Petkova, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to the SR Vietnam

It is a deep and rare joy to write about the ones we love, ever greater when they are also our heroes.

This book is a moving recollection on the lives of a young French family based in Saigon, Vietnam during the Second World War. Part ripping tale, part heartfelt saga and part record of events; here is tension, mystery and emotional drama played out across the backdrop of a significant, yet somewhat overlooked theatre of the war, from colonial Indochina.

Darren Gall, Author of "Cambodia Sevensea’s"

About the Author

Thierry de Roland Peel was born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where his father was a tea planter. After University education, a stint in the British Army and the City of London he came to Cambodia in 1993 to help develop the country and began with the privatization of a large Jute Mill and Power Station in Battambang. “Ashes from Annam” is his first book, based on his mother’s experience in Indochina during WWII.