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The Ash Garden

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  510 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Emiko Amai is six years old in August 1945 when the Hiroshima bomb burns away half of her face. To Anton, a young German physicist involved in the Manhattan Project, that same bomb represents the pinnacle of scientific elegance. And for his Austrian wife Sophie, a Jewish refugee, it marks the start of an irreparable fissure in their new marriage.

Fifty years later, seeming
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Vintage (first published September 1st 2001)
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Zoe Luba
Dec 05, 2011 Zoe Luba rated it did not like it
If I could give this book zero stars, I would. I absolutely hated it. This book was so confusing and slow at the same time - even finishing three pages felt like a victory. Because it jumped around so much, I never really understood the chronological order of the events, because times and dates were never really specified. I also strongly disliked two of the three main characters because their relationship bothered me, they just did not seem to mesh well together. I felt like this book was suppo ...more
Friederike Knabe
Oct 17, 2013 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
Sometimes, chance encounters with books lead to discoveries you wouldn't want to miss. Finding "The Ash Garden" has been one such experience. It is a superbly written, subtle, yet complex human interest story placed against the backdrop of historical events. Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the atom bomb's devastating short term impacts reverberate through the story. The lingering long term effects, politically and emotionally, connect the three protagonists: the German scientist, having left Europe ...more
Uwe Hook
Nov 03, 2013 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
Let it be said right now: Dennis Bock's The Ash Garden is a very beautiful book. It is lyrical and has a very powerful poetic quality. As a matter of fact, the book reads like one long sad poem about loss and despair. This is the type of book that takes it time to tell its story. It is quiet and serene.
The books concentrates on two major characters. You have Anton, a German scientist who escaped his native land in the 40s and moved to America where he helped build the atomic bomb that would late
Jul 26, 2008 Diane rated it it was ok
Each August I feel compelled to read or re-read a book about Hiroshima. Often it was John Hersey’s book and the past few years it has been Hiroshima Doctor, written by a Japanese survivor and facilitated in publication by a UNC faculty member who headed the medical investigations in Hiroshima after WW II. This year I happened to pick up The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock and although fiction it had promise. There are three characters: Emiko who at age six was badly burned and disfigured by the Hirosh ...more
Jun 18, 2007 Pamela rated it it was ok
This is one of those books in which three individual narratives become one. One of those individuals helped to engineer the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and he doesn't regret having done so. Another one of those individuals is a child who suffered severe burns from the bomb. And the last is a young Jewish refugee, sent out of Europe by her family before the war erupted. Only one of these characters transcends his or her solipsism, which makes the self-absorbed interactions of the other two fe ...more
Steven Buechler
Mar 27, 2014 Steven Buechler rated it really liked it
Often enough we are confronted with historical facts and are asked to explain our role in them. "Where were you when . . " or "What did your family do during . . " is an often enough phrase during either classroom lectures or dinner parties. But the answers are not that simple for many of us. We didn't know that action 'x' was going to cause 'y' or family member believing something way back when would be socially unacceptable for us today. That is the conflict Dennis Bock tries to show in his no ...more
3 -stars... for now.

i finished this book last night and have spent all day today trying to figure out what to say about it. bock's writing is so lovely - it's truly elegant and beautiful. and he handles some heavy issues of morality very well, reflecting the complicated nature of being human in an often inhumane world. given the chaos and life-changing nature of the events bock takes on, the restraint is impressive. bock is quite subtle in his examinations, and he levels no judgments or opinion
J.R. Ortega
Jul 09, 2017 J.R. Ortega rated it liked it
Put this book down for a while, but overall it was a good book. It really makes you understand both sides of Hiroshima through believable fictional characters.
The first chapter was wonderful. After that the author completely failed at keeping my interest.
Mar 13, 2017 K rated it it was amazing
Read just as was pub'd in '03. Still remember it as a favorite and would reread in a heartbeat.
Mar 05, 2017 Hiba rated it it was ok
" i dont begin with themes. I begin with time and place and events.themes reveal themselves later,if at all."
A good book ..i enjoyed emiko's parts ..and the confrontations. Other than that it was slow and less than what i expected.
Lori Michaelson
Jun 04, 2017 Lori Michaelson rated it liked it
Interesting plot. Ponderous writing.
The opening pages of this novel in which a survivor of Hiroshima meets and interacts with a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, were so promising that I had high hopes for the rest of the story. Sadly, those hopes went unfulfilled, but maybe that was the point. The characters are all in search of various forms of closure; whether they find it or not is, at best, arguable.

Emiko was six years old on August 6, 1945, playing with her brother at the Bantai Bridge when the bomb fell, on wh
Mar 06, 2011 Sharon rated it really liked it
The 'Ash Garden' refers to the somehow miraculous growth of flowers that started to grow just weeks later in the ashes of what was left of Hiroshima and its people. Dennis Bock has written about the most disturbing event to happen in our world, the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The atom bomb was used as a means to end world slaughter at the time. The book retraces the lives of three people whose lives were changed as a result. We go on a journey with Emiko Amai, a little girl, who whil ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. As the cover of this novel intriguingly ponders: what would happen should a survivor from Hiroshima encounter one of the scientists who brought the Manhattan Project to its nightmarish fruition? The premise for the novel held such tantalising prospects, and the passage where this is eventually described is so well composed. However, Bock loses much of the impetus through quite turgid chapters in the middle of the book, which is`such a shame as his opening chapter on the dropping of the bo ...more
This book should have been so much better.

It focuses on three characters: Anton, a German scientist who fled to America and helped develop the atomic bomb; Sophie, his wife, who left her homeland to escape from the Nazis; and Emiko, a Japanese woman whose life was shattered forever because of what happened one morning in Hiroshima.

This should have been an amazing story.

Instead, the narratives are woven together in a way that makes little sense, imparting a bit of knowledge here and there befor
Jul 03, 2008 Kismet rated it it was ok
This is the story of a retired Manhattan Project physicist who meets a Japanese woman who survived the atomic bomb. They meet after one of his lectures, during which he tried to explain how important the science behind the bomb was to the country and how those who worked on the bomb did not take their role in what would happen lightly. She, a young girl then and a middle-aged woman now, invites him to appear in a documentary she is making about that time in Hiroshima. The chapter of the book whe ...more
Jan 11, 2017 Danielle rated it liked it
This was a good story, about how 3 lives intertwine. One is one of the scientists who helped build the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima, the other his wife, whose parents sent her away from home because she is Jewish (WW2) and the last is Emiko, a girl who was horribly burned in the aftermath of the bomb. Emiko also lost her parents and her little brother. Only her grandfather survived, and he sent her to the US for surgery on her burnt face. Not a true story, but all of these people share simila ...more
Oct 03, 2010 Cassie rated it liked it
I would rate this book a 2.5, so my rating is actually too high. I was left dissatisfied after reading this. The way Bock wrote this book was not particularly engaging. I was left feeling bored at times and interested at others, despite the intense and engrossing subject matter. I was expecting this book to be something I loved, since I am a huge fan of historical novels. I guess I was wrong.

It was not a bad novel, however. It was just lackluster, in my opinion. I do admit that the characters we
Jun 07, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was ok
Sorry Dennis. I think I read this book many years ago and forgot all about it. I think I know why now. Although this is an admirable topic and should make fascinating and thought provoking reading it just not do it for me. I have stuck with it for 100 pages but I still feel like I am wading through treacle. It is just so slow.

Maybe this is the result of just finishing a John Grisham or of being too tired to get through more than 5 pages without falling asleep (when was the last time a book did t
Alison Morgan
Oct 01, 2008 Alison Morgan rated it it was ok
This book was about an interesting topic - a guy who helped create the atomic bomb and a girl from Hiroshima who was severely burned by it. However, the author was pretty cold and approached his characters from too much of a distance. You never really cared about them at a personal level. He could have done so much more with the book than he did, which was disappointing. The best writing he had was when he described the scene of the pilots flying over Hiroshima and dropping the bomb. Otherwise, ...more
Leslie Shimotakahara
Jul 30, 2010 Leslie Shimotakahara rated it really liked it
What would be the most extreme, life changing experience you could have? Losing half your face to disfigurement from the atomic bomb surely ranks at the top of the list. In The Ash Garden, Dennis Bock explores this predicament from the perspective of a Japanese woman named Emiko. An innocent child when defaced during the war, she is now a celebrated filmmaker who looks back on her life using her scars as a kind of lens for trauma and memory.... My full review can be read at: www.the-reading-list ...more
Oct 12, 2008 Karen rated it liked it
The triangle of a young woman from Hiroshima, the man involved in creating the bomb and a Jewish Hungarian woman,his wife, who escaped is new, at least to me.
Many parts of the book describe the misery of all three and the curious weave they make in notable style. However I felt that he missed numerous opportunities to create very strong descriptive moments and I felt let down. Sometimes the lack of connection in the characters evolving left me thinking, "What?" Read it, but keep expectations low
Book Concierge
There are moments of brilliant writing in this novel. It is a character study set in recent history.

A German scientist, an Austrian teenager, a Japanese girl of six - all connected by the bombing of Hiroshima. Anton escapes Germany and comes to America to work on the Manhattan Project. Sophie leaves her Jewish father and Gentile mother as a teenager bound for Cuba, but marooned at sea until bureaucracy allows her to come to Canada. Emiko, scarred by the blast's effects, comes to America to get
Maria Lucia Seidl De Moura
Dec 12, 2016 Maria Lucia Seidl De Moura rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. It is beautifully written and so sensitive. It touches the complexity of life and of human actions. There are always different perspectives and sometimes it is not a question of right or wrong. The descriptions are so vivid, I could imagine myself living the scenes. It made think about many things. It was a wonderful surprise. I had the book for some time and decided to read it now.
Nidhi Pande
Jul 17, 2015 Nidhi Pande rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-copy
An epic evocation of what happened in Hiroshima. I always wanted to read something about the incident, to know more about what happened from the side of a survivor. This book is more than a survivor's account. It tells you both about the survivor as well as the one who was involved in making of the bomb. The entire book moves about with an emotional restrain. It's both lyrical and provocative. Both informative and enlightening.
Aug 07, 2009 Marvin rated it really liked it
A moving book with just 3 main characters alternating as the focus & voice of the story: a Japanese-American woman who was severely scarred in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; a German scientist who joined the Manhattan Project in 1940; and his wife, an Austrian refugee whose father was a Jew and vanished, along with the rest of the family, in the Holocaust.
Sep 18, 2013 Kaela rated it it was ok
Not what I expected out of book with so much potential to be great. The relationship between the scientist of the atomic bomb and a Japanese victim of that same bomb. The author's words get muddled in places and so does the story, especially in the many confusing sections in where the author tries to tie in the scientists wife. I was looking for more substance.
Carly Svamvour
I just came across this one on my listings at Wild City ...

I've changed my listing here to a 'to-read', simply because I want to read it again at some time.

There's another book by this author - I believe I read that too.
Apr 17, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
I think this deserves 3-1/2 stars at least. It takes you to the ground at Hiroshime just before the bomb hits and then takes you through the perspectives of two peoples lives - the little girl who was bombed and survived and a scientist involved in developing the bomb.
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Dennis Bock is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Hailed by The Globe and Mail as “Canada’s next great novelist,” his books include Olympia, The Ash Garden, The Communist's Daughter, and Going Home Again, shortlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize and winner of the 2014 Best Foreign Novel Award in China.

Dennis grew up in Oakville, Ontario and completed a degree in English literature
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