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Plum Wine

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,230 Ratings  ·  236 Reviews
"Barbara Jefferson, a young American teaching in Tokyo in the 1960s, is set on a life-changing quest when her Japanese surrogate mother, Michi, dies, leaving her a tansu of homemade plum wines wrapped in rice paper. Within the papers Barbara discovers writings in Japanese calligraphy that comprise a startling personal narrative. With the help of her translator, Seiji Okada ...more
Kindle Edition, 332 pages
Published (first published January 18th 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,972)
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Jan 03, 2008 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Renee by: Entertainment Weekly
This book is like an oatmeal breakfast: solid, slightly sweet, filling and "good for you." In that sense it wasn't very adventurous or riveting--just got the job done. The pace clipped along, the dialogue sounded authentic and the story about Hiroshima survivors was one I haven't encountered too often (although, I'm not overly familiar with stories framed in Japan). However, it's not the type of book I'm going to lend to somebody because honestly, nobody every says, "hey, wanna go out for oatmea ...more
Feb 21, 2008 Tonya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
While I loved the peek into Japanese culture in the 20 years after the bombing of Hiroshima, I just couldn't seem to like the characters and found them too flat. I wanted to go back in time so I could hand her the book "He's Just Not Into You!" Their whole relationship seemed so dysfunctional. Because I wasn't terribly excited about the main characters' relationship (which was a main focus of the book) I just couldn't get into it.

I did, however, feel like I got a lot of new insights as to the v
Apr 25, 2015 Rosanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Chosen by my book club, I had high hopes for this book reading the blurb, but, ultimately was disappointed. The author had the core of a very good idea, but just didn't follow it up. It could have been much better if the main character had not been the complete focus of the book, but rather the vehicle though which we get to learn about the life of her friend who survived Hiroshima.
Feb 25, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It's set in the 60's and is written in the point of view of a Tokyo university teacher, an American newbie to Japan, named Barbara. She lives in Hiroshima and while she pursues a mystery she also slowly uncovers the human legacy of the horrific day the bomb was dropped.

Barbara receives a shocking bequest. After a colleague, who'd welcome and supported her in the university job, suddenly dies, Barbara receives, at her mentor's stipulation, a chest filled with bottl
Oct 06, 2009 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at a library sale. I enjoy getting books I have never heard of at library sales, maybe partly because of the risk involved. It sounded good: a suspense novel about a young American woman teaching in Japan. Lee Smith called it “memorable” on the cover. I like reading about foreign settings. I myself applied to teach for a year in Japan once, and ended up teaching for a year in France.

In this book review I must be diligent to apply John Updike’s six rules for reviewers, which are
Rating Clarificaton: 3.5 Stars

"From your lips I came to understand the language of the plum wine."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am aware that many people greatly disliked it, and I can honestly understand why opinions are so divided. The novel's heroine is a bit flat and annoying, the premise on the blurb is a bit misleading, and the writing could be kind of melodramatic or really, really melodramatic, in the case of the ending. Yet, even with all of its faults, I adored this book. I flew
Oct 23, 2010 Tatiana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finishing this book was a challenge. I put it down several times, either because it was infuriating me or boring me.

The romance between Barbara and Seiji was messed up and disfunctional, but their relationship was the main focus of the plot. I don't care what he went through, Seiji was a selfish jerk who used her to cover up his selfish jerkiness. I wasn't too fond of Barbara, either. Yeah, Michi left the tansu chest to her, but I think Barbara took the polite reach of her inheritance a tad far
Marie cuatt
Mar 20, 2008 Marie cuatt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Marie by: library book club
American teacher teaching at a university in Japan is left a chest by her seragate mother, a fellow teacher who died.
The chest contains 20 bottles of homemade plum wine, each bottle wrapped in sheets of rice paper "covered w/ elegant
calligraphy" each bottle dated - one for each of the last 20years. American teacher searches for someone to translate
the writings....finds a man who makes pottery. They fall in love..........
I could not like either of them....shallow people, shallow relationship. The
The heroine of this book is an American woman living in Japan. The story depicts her life there, her relationship with a Japanese woman who recently passed away, and her relationship with a common friend. I found the story related to the ritual of the plum wine, and passing of the histories from mothers to daughters very delicate and beautiful. I love traditions and learning about this one was marvelous. The heroine finds out about this tradition while through a gift the dead woman leaves her. W ...more
I found the cultural aspects of this book very interesting. I found anything that had to do with Japan was well researched and beautifully written, wonderful descriptions of the country and its customs. I found out things I did not know. I did not like the main character, Barbara. A lot of the elements to her character were either unbelievable or undeveloped. I was hoping for more about her own mother/daughter relationship. It just felt like there were parts missing.
Suzanne Moore
This Asian-American love story takes place during the 1960s and is something of a mystery / romance. Barbara Jefferson, from North Carolina, is teaching at a university in Tokyo. She is mourning the loss of her surrogate mother who left her a trunk of plum wine. Each bottle of wine is wrapped in a sleeve of rice paper that contains beautiful calligraphy messages. Barbara needs a translator to read the wine bottle messages and she meets a potter who translates and agrees to work with her. The Jap ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Diane16 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in Japan in the 1960's, this story follows an American woman who is teaching English. She inherits a set of plum wine bottles from a colleague who passes away, and must unfold the mystery surrounding that colleague. In the meanwhile, she has a love affair and learns about the after-effects of the atomic bombings at the end of WWWII. I loved this book! Of course, I love historical fiction. This book taught me a lot about post-WWII Japan, but it was filled with interesting characters and a gre ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was such a great find for me, being that I go nuts for stories about Japan, especially about Americans in Japan. This one took place in the 1960's. The main character, Barbara, gets involved with Seiji, a potter who survived the Hiroshima bombing. It's very romantic (and I bet I would totally pull a Barbara in the same situation), but despite some pretty solid clues from Sieji that he will ultimately flake out on Barbs, she keeps on falling in love with her ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Monique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, if I could. Heart wrenching, historical fiction novel about an American teacher living in Japan about 20 years post World War II and her experiences as she came to know the Japanese people around her, some who were "hibakusha," having been directly affected by the bombing in Hiroshima. This book first caught my interest because I had recently been to Japan and fell in love with Tokyo--the city, the culture, the gracious people. The characters are endearing; sometimes infuriating. At t ...more
Cathe Olson
This book sounded intriguing -- Barbara, an American woman teaching in Japan whose friend dies and leaves her a tansu chest filled with bottles of homemade plum wine wrapped in sheets of rice paper with caligraphy written by her friend and her friend's mother. When Barbara attempts to have them translated by a local potter, she falls in love with him.

I was so disappointed in this book.It just got worse and worse as it went on. The characters were unreal and unlikeable. They never trusted each ot
Sep 07, 2009 Sucia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the stark reality of the romance in this book. It captured emotions while not putting love on a pedestal. The backgrounds of the aftermath of Hiroshima and the Japanese culture were both intriguing and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good story.
Wendy Lu
Jan 07, 2016 Wendy Lu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very pretty, delicate and articulate

i'm at hope's place now, and for the next two weeks, and lydia is here too, having been coaxed up here. its so good to be with them, in little ways that we're used to, being in each other's space and having conversations that are hard to have over the phone or skype or text. farnaz is a gracious hostess, and a vision, and ting is kind and solicitous even from halfway across the world -- she made up her bed with clean sheets and doesn't mind at all that we're c
leigh booth
Feb 21, 2010 leigh booth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
very good story, learned alot about hiroshima and japanese custom. i had mostly been reading chinese genre and this was a different view. highly recommend this book!!
Nov 01, 2014 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully rendered tale of a cross-cultural romance between an American teacher on assignment in Japan and a gentle but troubled potter. The mystery within this relationship unfolds like a Japanese tea ceremony, with delicacy, understatement, and grace. Davis-Gardner writes with such poise and elegance that it is only afterward that one realizes how carefully she has fashioned such a powerful, emotionally devastating work. It illuminates the divide between cultures and individuals and delive ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Toni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A glossary/translation of Japanese words that were used in the novel would have helped immensely. Yes, it is difficult to like the two main characters, but the other aspects of the novel (descriptions of Japan and its culture especially as it relates to Hiroshima and the bomb survivors, life as an English teacher in a foreign land, the relationships of the female characters with each other) make up for it. Honestly, I'm more interested in a well-told story that exposes me to new perspectives or ...more
May 07, 2011 Felice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plum Wine, by Angela Davis-Gardner is set in 1966 Japan. Barbara is a young American student teaching English at Tokyo University. She is happy in the life there and is especially attached to an older Japanese woman, Michiko. Michiko has been friend and surrogate mother to Barbara. When Michiko loses her struggle with cancer, Barbara is devastated.

After Michiko's death Barbara finds that she has been left a chest filled with bottles of plum wine by her friend. There are twenty bottles in all. B
Mirah W
Jul 28, 2011 Mirah W rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As an American living in Japan I was interested to read the story of Barbara, an American teaching at Kodaira College in Japan during the Vietnam War. Barbara's friend, Michi, dies and leaves Barbara a tansu chest filled with plum wine and yearly notes. The notes were Michi's reflections on the previous year. Barbara does not read Japanese so she enlists the help of Seiji, a friend of Michi's, to help translate the pages. I thought the story was unveiled in an almost disjointed way. I wish thing ...more
Jenny Yates
This novel, set in Japan in the 60s, is definitely on the minimalist side. It’s the story of Barbara, a woman from North Carolina, who goes to Japan to teach for a few years. The constant slight confusion of the protagonist is very familiar to me, since I’ve also experienced a lot of culture shock in my life.

The story that’s grafted onto this doesn’t feel entirely natural, but it is heartfelt. Barbara is befriended by Michi, a Japanese teacher who is like a mother to her, and when Michi dies, B
Mar 22, 2012 Sheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A KPL Book Club selection. I really enjoyed this book. A look at Japan's generation of atomic bomb survivors as a fiction with a young American woman at the helm of the story. We talked about the story at book club and my view of the book really broaden. Having several book club memebers who were intimately faimiliar with Japanese culture and in a bi-cultrual relationship like the characters in the book (both woman/woman and woman/man) make the book more interesting. Was this a story with little ...more
The suspense kept me going with this book. The gradual unraveling of the mystery of a dead woman's life and her connection to a young man make the plot worth reading. It's a very easy read.

I appreciated the weaving of history, culture, and language within the novel. The aesthetics really make the novel beautiful. Snippets of Japanese are interspersed in the dialogue without any translation, and the reader can infer the meaning if necessary.

I found the heroine to be a little annoying--but in a b
Jul 15, 2014 Brandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at the library because I liked the cover. This is a lovely and tragic story of love, war, cultural heritage, and heartbreak. I don't know how much of this is taken from actual history of the legacy from the atomic bombing in Japan. I didn't see a message in the book identifying which parts were fiction and which based in history, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there, just that i did not see a message. I found the love story beautifully woven into the text. However, the parts th ...more
Feb 26, 2012 Heide rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mir hat das Buch ausserordentlich gut gefallen.. Das Buch spielt in der Zeit des Vietnam-Krieges, wenn die junge Amerikanerin Barbara nach Japan zieht, um dort fuer ein Jahr oder so Englische und englische Literatur an einer japanischen Universität lehrt. Ich mochte besonders die Interaktionen mit ihren Schülern, ihren Verlust ihrer japanischen Mentorin Michi, der ihr ein "Tansu" (eine japanische Truhe) vererbte, in dem sie Flaschen in Reispapier gewickelt fand,Barbara entdeckt dann, dass die Re ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Erica rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books I have read for my book club. It is set in the 1960's at a women's university in Tokyo. The main character, Barbara is teaching English at this school. She has a wonderful, older friend named Michiko who leaves her a chest full of plum wine upon her death. On each bottle of wine is wrapped a writing of what has happened the previous year. Helping her to translate is Sejii who has some secrets of his own. The book moves back and forth in time. Many family stories ...more
It is 1965, the U. S. is involved in the Vietnam War, and Barbara Jefferson, a 28-year-old American is teaching English in a Tokyo University, is about to be instructed in the lingering affects of the previous war and the bombing of Hiroshima. Michi, a very kind fellow teacher at the University, had taken Barbara under her wing immediately upon the young American's arrival, but as the book begins, Michi has died. Her death leaves Barbara alone in a foreign world, but soon she discovers that some ...more
More like 3.7 stars.

American Barbara teaches English at a women's college in Japan during the 1960s. A close colleague dies suddenly and bequeaths her with a chest of home made plum wine. Each bottle is wrapped in paper covered with calligraphic Japanese characters, which Barbara cannot read. With the help of a translator - with whom she falls in love, and who has personal ties to the deceased colleague - Barbara learns that these are journals dating back to 1930.

Although published in 2006, the
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