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Nanjing Requiem

3.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  942 Ratings  ·  199 Reviews
The award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash returns to his homeland in a searing new novel that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century: the Rape of Nanjing.

In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin—an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College—decides to remain at the school, convinced that her Am
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2011)
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81st out of 99 books — 27 voters
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14th out of 21 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,295)
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Apr 25, 2012 Shomeret rated it really liked it
I read this book because I thought a novel would be a better way for me to read about the Japanese occupation of Nanjing. Reportage of atrocities can de-sensitize us so that they have less impact and you care less about the victims. Fiction with characterization where you see into the minds and hearts of the characters and see their lives in context should make you care more. Unfortunately, as other reviewers have said this is closer to reportage than fiction.

One of the problems is that Ha Jin
Tara Chevrestt
I appreciate what the author has done here: educated us about the rape Nanjing. I didn't know a thing about it till I picked up this book. But where I was expecting a historical novel about a strong missionary woman named Minnie, I got just what I said above, the rape of Nanjing.

The first part of the book... is one brutality after another, page after page of rape, sexual molesting and deforming of women, head slashing, and even urinating on children. The Japanese committed the foulest of acts.
Marjorie Snook
I really wanted to like this book. Jin's Waiting and The Crazed are two of my favorite books, and I pre-ordered this book on Amazon so I could get it as soon as it came out.

I was underwhelmed, though. While I did learn a lot about the occupation of Nanjing, and especially the role of foreigners in the city during the time, the book was strangely unengaging. The book is all told at a strange emotional remove, making the storytelling seem wooden and sometimes strained. Jin also had the very bad ha
Susan Emmet
Feb 14, 2016 Susan Emmet rated it liked it
This historical novel is my introduction to the work of Ha Jin. I will follow up on reading him.
However, as horrific as the detailing is of the utter destruction of life in the Nanjing area just prior to World War II, and as potentially uplifting the stories of American and Chinese missionaries, aid workers and teachers are, somehow the novel read "flat" for me.
Minnie Vautrin and all those affiliated with Jingling College were dedicated to their work. But I was most drawn to the life story of A
May 16, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012-reads
While I found the opening sections of this book riveting and horrifying the slow pace and dwelling on minute details left me struggling to keep up my interest as the novel progressed. Clearly a subject worthy of exploration and revelation but I couldn't help but compare it unfavorably with classic historical novelizations like "All Quiet on the Western Front" or last year's "The Sojourn."
too boring...this reads like journalism, not a novel.
Kristen Carannante
Jul 17, 2012 Kristen Carannante rated it really liked it
Nanjing Requiem is a story of courage and conviction in the face of unspeakable atrocity.

Minnie Vautrin is the American dean of the Jinling Women's College. On the eve of the Japanese invasion of Nanjing in 1937, when most foreigners are leaving for their own safety, Minnie remains and turns the campus into a refugee center for women and children, believing that her status as an American will ensure the safety of the refugees and the staff of the college who remain on with her. Her mistaken beli
Dec 02, 2011 Felice rated it it was ok
One of the novels I have been looking forward to the most this fall is Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin. Alas…my expectations, very high after Jin’s previous six novels, were not met.

In 1937 Japanese troops took control of the Chinese capital of Nanjing from the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek. The Japanese then literally wreaked havoc on the civilians of Nanjing. In just the starting weeks of the occupation Japanese soldiers killed over 250,000 men, women and children and 20,000 women and girls we
Jul 02, 2013 Annette rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No-one
Sadly, I don't have anything positive to say about this book. It's been on my to-read list for ages, and I've long been interested in the story of the Nanjing massacre. Nanjing Requiem was a major disappointment, and it read to me as if written in the simple language of a 10 year old. That in itself isn't a crime, but it was also devoid of life, colour and personality.

The characters (based on real people living in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation) are one dimensional, and the prose is mund
Oct 28, 2011 Tony rated it liked it
NANJING REQUIEM. (2011). Ha Jin. ***.
The author is normally a writer whose prose resembles poetry. His sentences flow smoothly and precisly describe his characters, their surroundings and their actions. This book is no exception, but somehow it doesn’t all come together the same way. This is the story of The Rape of Nanjing (Nanking) by the Chinese in 1937. The protagonist is Minnie Vantrin, an American missionary, the dean of Jinling Women’s College. The school is for young women only and is w
Aug 27, 2012 NyiNya rated it it was amazing
Ha Jin never goes for the jugular. His cool, reserved style works to his advantage in "Nanjing Requiem. The facts are so horrific, that letting too much emotion creep into the narrative could take it over the edge into Grand Guignol.

The focus of Nanjing Requiem is Jinling Women's College. Ha Jin seamlessly blends real and fictional figures and locations to bring us into the center of six weeks of hell on earth. As the Japanese advance, Chaing Kai-shek flees to Chongqing; he leaves his armies in
Mar 29, 2015 Emilade rated it liked it
Until the last 50 pages, I was ready to give this book a significantly lower rating. There are times when it feels like a ten year old wrote the book. Maybe it was intentional, the idea being English was not the native language of the narrator. But there was no feeling in there at all, which is astonishing considering the content of the book. But the last 50 pages grab at you, make you feel something, and make the book worth it.

Its an ok book, but you might want to skip ahead a little if you re
Jul 27, 2012 Brie rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Ha Jin and his writing style. This book is one of the best he has written, at least in my mind.

The book starts out following real events in WW2 with the Nanjing Massacre (otherwise known as "The Rape of Nanjing") by the invading Japanese troops. I was aware of this event and it was interesting to read a fictional story based during this time period. The story follows teachers at a women's college in Nanjing that protected women during the Massacre and then follows the story th
Sep 08, 2014 Dave rated it it was ok
My fifth Ha Jin book, and definitely the least of the five. This isn't a novel so much as it's a list of all the horrible things the Japanese did during the rape of Nanking, an occupation that killed more people than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The event itself is important and very much undercovered in history classes, but story after story of mistreatment, assault, casual murder, and casual enslavement does not make for good fiction. I would have been better off reading a non-fiction acco ...more
May 03, 2014 Katherine rated it it was ok
Lord, this was the book that wouldn't end. And really, it just kind of ground to a stop. There didn't seem to be an arc to the story - and the really sad thing about that is that this should have been a completely compelling story. Minnie Vautrin was an actual person, a missionary working at Jinling University in Nanjing. And she was in charge in 1937 when the Japanese devastated Nanjing. Instead of running for safety as so many did, she stayed and turned Jinling into a refugee camp for 10,000 w ...more
Stephanie Anze
Jun 05, 2015 Stephanie Anze rated it liked it
Minnie Vautrin is the dean of the Jingling Women's College in Nanjing. Following the Japanese occupation, Minnie (an American) decides to stay behind and use her influence and title to help the people that have been displaced. As many of the staff and students have left, Minnie converts the college into a temporary refugee camp for women and children. Despite her best efforts, she struggles to keep peace and safety in her camp, as the Japanese wreck havoc. Still Minnie remains strong and ultimat ...more
May 21, 2016 Michelle rated it liked it
I picked up this book at the library on a whim. I'm moving to Nanjing in the fall and wanted to learn more about the culture, city, and it's history. When I typed "Nanjing" into the library's catalogue, this was the first to pop up. I did no research on the novel or the author beforehand.

Jin does a wonderful job setting up the historical background of Nanjing Requiem and detailing the atrocities that the Chinese people faced at the hands of the Japanese, as well as the work done by Minnie Vautri
This is full circle for Ha Jin. AFter a great progression of novels and stories depicting life in his native China, he ventured into themes of the awful effects of modern warefare in War Trash, and then he wote of the life of first generation immigrants living in the US. In Nanjing Requiem he returns to an Asian war and his native land, but tells the story of the prolonged massacre of the civilians on Nanjing by the Japanese throug the story of an American missionary, Minnie Vautrin. Some review ...more
Jan 13, 2016 Booknblues rated it really liked it

I seem to be reading a plethora of books set in times of war this year and Ha Jin's Nanjing Requiem is no exception. This historical fiction while told through the perspective of a fictional character, Anling, secretary to Principal of Jingling College in Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin, who indeed was a real person and whose diaries support many of the incidents listed in the book.

It was a horrific time for the people of Nanjing and Ha Jin deftly describes through the eyes of Anling how Minnie negotiat
Jan 14, 2016 Pamela rated it liked it
Ha Jin’s novel is based on the diaries and memoirs of survivors of the rape of Nanking by Japanese soldiers in the Sino-Japanese war of 1937-38. Because he has limited his focus to the experiences of the administrators and teachers of a girl’s school in Nanking run by American missionaries, we really don’t get a full picture of the horror of one of the most heinous (and least prosecuted) of war crimes in modern history. However, we do get insight into how it affected this particular group of peo ...more
Aug 12, 2014 anolinde rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The writing style of this book was very simple, and not in a good way. The dialogue was incredibly clunky - there were a lot of unnecessary lines like "'Thanks,' I said," and often the same phrases were repeated over and over. At first I assumed the book was originally written in another language and then translated, but that wasn't the case. It's a shame, because the story itself was compelling, and it could have been a much better book. Instead, you're reading about all these atrocities, and y ...more
Dec 06, 2013 Dymbula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poctivá čtyřka hvězdiček. Autor dokázal, že mi až do konce nepřišlo, že to psal chlap. Klobouk dolů. A kromě toho obdivuji jeho schopnost zůstat popisný a hlídat si emoce při popisu takových prasáren. Obdivuhodné čtení. A smutné.
Aug 24, 2013 Mimi rated it it was ok
I have loved Ha Jin's other books, this one is completely disappointing. Maybe the subject matter is
too horrific to be dealt with in fiction....
Vivian  Evhs Luong
Apr 02, 2015 Vivian Evhs Luong rated it it was ok
Although Nanjing Requiem was about such a shocking subject, the Rape of Nanjing, I was terribly bored reading this. Ha Jin included all the horrifying details of the Rape of Nanjing, but did not draw me into the plot at all. I did not feel emotionally connected to Anling, although I felt I should've been, given Anling's struggles with her family and Haowen. I think Ha Jin's prose is detached in order to allow the reader to be cushioned from the graphic atrocities, but it also made me feel distan ...more
Tim Shortt
Mar 26, 2016 Tim Shortt rated it liked it
Shelves: my2016
It's an important story, but told so flatly, almost as if the author was intimidated handling historical figures in a fiction. The narrator, a tag-along to the central character, only displays any personal voice when being disapproving. A farewell tea party has the same weight and affect as rapes and slayings. It's not unusual for some festive remnant to be given a scene in books of war horrors as a contrast, but here it is just another event, another item on the agenda. The Wikipedia articles t ...more
May 04, 2015 Marg rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this well-written book about the extreme challenges facing the female leadership of a college in Nanking during World War II. The women had earned the respect of many diplomats and even the Japanese and were able to shelter thousands of women and children on their campus from the massacres and destruction that were taking place all around them. I debated between a 3 and 4, but finally decided to encourage others to read it by giving it a 4. It's a story of the few good things that happ ...more
Alissa Mccarthy
Mar 14, 2014 Alissa Mccarthy rated it liked it
I picked this book up in an airport because I knew I would be going to China. I finished it sitting at LAX waiting for a flight to Guangzhou. The book is about when, in 1937, Japanese troops took control of the Chinese capital of Nanjing from the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek. The Japanese literally "cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war" on Nanjing. In just the starting weeks of the occupation Japanese soldiers killed over 250,000 men, women and children and 20,000 women and girls were ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it
The initial chapters are a disturbing portrait of the Japanese invasion of Nanjing. It is more an 'account' of that plus the aftermath rather than a 'novel.'

The award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash returns to his homeland in a searing new novel that unfurls during one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century: the Rape of Nanjing.

In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin—an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College—decides to remain at t
Feb 19, 2013 Melissa rated it liked it
This was a tough book about the Japanese invasion of Nanjing, China in 1937. The story is based on documents and the diaries of Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and dean of the Jinling Women's College. Some of the atrocities described in the book were to awful to be real. "In war, victory justifies all sorts of violence. A complete victory means to have finished off the enemy. In fact, I believe that the Japanese committed all the atrocities as a celebrations of their victory, as a kind of ...more
Nov 18, 2011 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
I must admit that through this novel, Jin gives credit where credit is due to Minnie Vautrin. As an American missionary during the Rape of Nanjing, she was responsible for saving countless lives due to the refugee camp she established at the Jinling Women’s College. This may seem morbid, but I was expecting more narrative about the violence inflicted by the Japanese army on the citizens of Nanjing during the capture of the city in December 1937, but a majority of the book focused on the occupati ...more
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Mixed reviews 1 3 Dec 30, 2013 03:53PM  
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Ha Jin is the pen name of Xuefei Jin, a novelist, poet, short story writer, and Professor of English at Boston University. Ha Jin writes in English about China, a political decision post-Tiananmen Square.
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