Remember, my rating is in no way a judgment of the suffering of those who lived through or died as a result of the events that occurred in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.Although it does feel wrong to give this book anything but five stars, my reaction to it was not one of pure love. Yes, I liked the book. It is an important book that needed to be written and should be read by all. It is a very clear description of exactly what happened that day to six Japanese people who lived through those events. The description is clear and concise and not emotional. It reads a as a research work. What happened? What would you have seen had you been there? That is what you get. It is very difficult reading, despite the absence of emotional involvement. None of the stories are presented in the first person. It reads as - he did that and he saw this.
The book then follows what happened in the days, weeks, months and years after that day. Living through that day changed all those who survived. It is important to lo look beyond the event itself and look at how it changed forever the lives of those who survived. It is important to look at how the Japanese government reacted, how they helped/didn't help the survivors.
All the facts of the people's lives are here, but some of the facts are not presented in a manner that can be comprehended. Some are pure statistics. One example being a salary is stated in yen or USD. I wanted to know what that salary bought then and there, not the monetary value. Some of the details were simply facts that I could not relate to.
This is a short book and only covers a few individuals, albeit individuals that represent what many other individuals experienced. It is important, but limited in scope. It is clear that the author wants to say that human beings do not learn from the past. One country after another developed its own atomic weapons and then huge arsenals. Clearly the author wants us to realize by this we have learned nothing, and unfortunately I must agree. Still a more in-depth discussion of the arms race wouldn't have been out of place, but that was not the aim of this book. Its scope is to follow just a few individual. It is important that the details revealed in this book are known. ...more
Yes, I liked it, but if you stop and analyze what happens you over and over find things that just do not make sense! That wouldn't happen! That is unbYes, I liked it, but if you stop and analyze what happens you over and over find things that just do not make sense! That wouldn't happen! That is unbelievable! If I give you examples, I am going to wreck the book for you. Here is just one example, (view spoiler)[there is no way that the Edward's Japanese lover could have lived in the suite with him on his first trip! (hide spoiler)]
Contemporary authors seem to think readers today no longer want a book that runs in chronological order. They all have to flip back and forth in time. Here we start in 2003 and then flip back first to the 50s and then to time periods closer and closer to 2003 when Edward is in his 70s. We learn retrospectively why he has become who he is. This flipping is not difficult to follow, but tell me, what is gained by this manner of writing?! Nothing as far as I can see.
Did I care for the characters? No, but they felt real. Edward is self-centered, egotistical and detached.
Do you get much history? No, even if some well-recognizable people (Churchill, Nehru) flash by! That Edward saw the American destruction of Japan (specifically Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima) with unforgiving eyes is not ever explained. He writes a book about it, but why he felt so moved is left unexplored. More could have been done with this theme.
What the book does excellently is beautifully draw for the reader the ambiance of a place - NY, London and Japan (around Tokyo). Mostly the latter two. Edward is Scottish. The Japanese characters feel Japanese. The American characters too. All the dialogs are perfect. Over and over I thought, "Yeah, that is exactly how a Japanese would talk to a foreigner." I have been there. I have also been to the places where the story is set, outside Tokyo. Everybody that goes to Japan will visit Kamakura and Hakone. On a crowded train near Hakone we were given painted toothpicks by a Japanese man. Given, they were a present from someone I did not know. You feel that the description of the places is genuine. However, I am a little unsure if my own memories make the lines more enjoyable for me than for a reader who has not been there..... How much have my own experiences added to the author's lines?
Japanese value beauty. This is an important theme of the book, and this is spot-on.
If you are curious about Japan or have been there, I think you will enjoy the book. I did.
One word about the narration by Nick Cheales - excellent! He perfectly captures different accents, Scottish, Japanese and American. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Too episodic for my tastes. The author travels in Japan after the earthquake / tsunami / and nuclear power melt down in 2011. Each chapter is a shortToo episodic for my tastes. The author travels in Japan after the earthquake / tsunami / and nuclear power melt down in 2011. Each chapter is a short little episode, many quite varied in character. There are blog entries, scientific facts about the melt down, criticism of government policies and travel notes. The best parts are poetically written; they relate how particular individuals experienced the waves, the fear, the typhoon.
Sumalee Montano, with her Japanese accent, gave a delightful rendering of the lines. Very good narration in fact.
I do recommend this book, and I am very glad I read it, but perfect, it isn’t! Let me explain.
This is a book of historical fiction. Isn’t the main goI do recommend this book, and I am very glad I read it, but perfect, it isn’t! Let me explain.
This is a book of historical fiction. Isn’t the main goal of this genre to teach about a passed time in history? I want historical fiction to make history come alive. I want to learn both the historical facts and to understand how the people who lived through the events felt! This story starts with Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, where Pinkerton, an American, has a child with a Japanese “wife”. They have a child. He returns and with his American fiancé /wife to take the child back to America. Then the Japanese mother commits suicide. That is the story of the opera. This story is what happens next, with a few alterations…… I will not tell you what is changed.
This story is about the child and his life in America and through his tale we are meant to learn about history. We learn about the years of the Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, Pearl Harbor, America’s involvement in the Second World War, the Japanese Internment Camps and finally the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And more……. As you can imagine, the central theme is about being Japanese in America during these years. It is also about being Japanese while fighting on the side of the Allies. And I learned details about the antics of General McArthur….. . I have read about all this before, but I learned more. You learn about Japanese philosophy and semantics. I particularly liked the sections concerning the meaning and usage of Japanese words, phrases and idioms. The intricacies of Japanese semantics were fascinating!
There is humor. The American dialog is perfect. The brutalities directed toward the Japanese residents in the US are gut-wrenching. You are there in the internment camps and can experience what life was really like there, on those beds, in those close quarters, lacking food and so horribly discriminated against. Enlistment became a means of escape. How were the Japanese treated after the war? All of this is part of the book.
The narrator of the audiobook was Laurel Lefkow. The American dialogs were spot-on, but the pronunciation of Japanese words could have been improved. The Japanese speaking English took a while to get used to. At times, the melodrama of the words was exaggerated by the narrator’s intonations. This was unfortunate.
My prime complaint of this novel concerns the chain of events chosen by the author. In the attempt to teach us about the chosen historical events, she constructed a story so that these events could be explored. The events could have rolled out in this manner, but they probably would not have. There are way too many coincidences. Even if in Madame Butterfly the American wife agreed to take the child and raise him as her own, in this novel it did not ring true. As it is portrayed in this novel she rushes in and grabs a child that is not her own. Now why would she do that? It does not make sense in this novel. Not at all. This aspect of the novel was a major fault in the story. Very unconvincing.
Still, I learned a lot and definitely recommend the book, either the audio or the written version.
ETA: there are some really good lines too. Taste these: "Hospitals are no place for sick people to be." "Truth is shapeless like water." "I didn't know I was Japanese until Roosevelt told us." "They (the two bodies) fit together like a soft jigsaw puzzle." :0) ...more
As with other books I have read by Kawabata, I didn't like this book in the beginning; by the end I am always glad I have read them. His writing is aAs with other books I have read by Kawabata, I didn't like this book in the beginning; by the end I am always glad I have read them. His writing is a lovely mix of haiku characteristic contrasts and normal text. The scenes drawn evoke the feel of Japanese culture and landscape and traditions. Dialog too. The books lead up to a crescendo of feeling. The theme, a hopeless love relationship between a wealthy dilettante and a geisha did not attract me.
And I have to say a word about the introduction. It explains the book - explains, analyzes and theorizes. It is like those articles that tell you how you should feel about art, which always kind of annoy me. Please, let each of us figure out for ourselves what we think. It is better to read after completing the book. I read it both before and after, you will really only understand it after finishing the book. The book's ending is a bit unclear, so it is kind of nice to have it clearly stated that you didn't just miss something. But I did not like the dilettante lover, and I think the introduction offers excuses for this character’s bad behavior.
The narration by Brian Nishii also grows on yo; it feels bad at the beginning but just fine by the end.
What can I say? Kawabata's writing is very special. It is a style that has to be experienced - a lovely mix of haiku and normal text. Very expressive. Sometimes gorgeously beautiful and emotive. There is a final scene with a clear night sky that bristles with cold, filled with stars and a cascade of sparks and fire. You feel it and see it. ...more
If you are interested about leaning Japanese history in a fun manner, this is a book for you. That is what I thought when I began this book. I do notIf you are interested about leaning Japanese history in a fun manner, this is a book for you. That is what I thought when I began this book. I do not think it now. Some of the stories are quite boring, others are OK! I simply did not like the tone of the writing. There is a flippant tone, a sarcastic humor that did not appeal to me. Some of the details woven into the stories were totally without interest to me. How a person's shoes fit, for example..... It is just that peculiar details are thrown in, and I couldn't care less about these details. The stories did not make me curious for more, as a good tale should! The only story I really enjoyed was the one about Hiroshige. I liked the illustrations by him too. But that is about it. One more thing I enjoyed, and that is I could picture the beauty of the place where the inn is situated, but that is probably because I have traveled in the area more than that the writing so well depicted it.
Check particularly under the headings "Japan" and "Birth of Masterpieces".
Statler mixes stories about Japanese history and guests stopping at the ancient Japanese inn, Minaguchi-ya, on the Tokaido Road. The inn came into being in 1569, along with the birth of the Tokugawa shogunate. The stories begin in 1569 and continue through to 1957. Some are fictional. Statler first visited this inn in 1947, employed in a civil service position with the Army. The book has great black and white illustrations, many by Hiroshige....more
ON COMPLETION: Below I state that the author was teaching on all of her trips. This is not trueI She returned for other reasons, whichSPOULER FREE!!!
ON COMPLETION: Below I state that the author was teaching on all of her trips. This is not trueI She returned for other reasons, which you will find out by reading the book.Furthermore, Cathy, in fact returns a fifth time in 2005, 10 years after the the earthquake in Kobe on January 17, 1995. This final trip is chronicled in the Afterword. The book has a dictionary of useful terms and an Acknowledgments chapter at the very end. The acknowledgements are essential reading. She states which characters are true and have retained their proper names. Many of the other characters and even the name of the school where she taught are composites. She has done this to protect the privacy of the places and people involved.
What is most important to point out is that this book is clearly not just about the Japanese culture. It focuses on many other topics too - national identity, learning capabilities, self-doubt, individualism versus conformity, privacy and death too. This book is personal and the author is not trying to come up with a pat solution that explains all the congruities of Japanese, American, Canadian or French people's behaviors. She looks at the different behavior patterns and sees the differences, overlaps, the pluses and minuses of each. From there she has to resolve where she fits. I found this aspect of the book very interesting since I too have lived in different countries for years. I too never know quite where I fit. However the first half of the book is predominantly about Japanese culture. The second half is her search to sort out where she belongs, albeit still teaching the reader about curious Japanese cultures that few tourist have access to.
At the end of the book the author explains why she has chosen the the given title. In brief it is beause what the book focuses upon is personal and does not attempt to find solutions to behavioral disparities. She accepts and shows us that people do act differently in different circumstances. This was the message in Hokusai's book, to which she is refering. You shouldn't be to quick to judge others and assume that the behavior you see one day is a clear definition of that person's personality. I have always had difficulty putting together the horric history of Japanese in war with the kindness, empathy and goodwill you feel when you meet them. This has always troubled me.
Sometimes I felt the book was longwinded.
AFTER 48%: This is a memoir of the author's experiences teaching English literature in Japan. She makes four trips. The first trip occurs in 1980 and the last in 1990. Her husband follows her and also teaches in Japan. On the first trip, they live in Nigawa, between Kobe and Osaki.
I am learning a lot. You get to experience with the author how she comes to understand the Japanese on an intimate level. She learns their customs and their habits. She is accepted by them as their friends. What I most appreciate is her open and searching quest to understand the psyche of particularly Japanese women. She works at the Kansai Women's University. She experiences great sorrow on this trip and you learn how the Japanese helped her. You learn it through their small actions. I feel I understand the Japanese psyche much better from reading this book. They have cultural rules, but they also have instances when these rules are discarded! They can behave in what seems completely contradictory/ manners in different situations.
In addition, you will learn more traditional facts about Japanese life. You maybe already knew that Chrysanthenums are the flower of Japan, used for commemorations, but did you know that yellow and orange are colors of life?
She travels to Kudakajima, an island of Okinawa. This is the last surving matriarchal culture. She does not travel there as a tourist, but with her Japanese friends. She is invited to see that which is not on display for tourists.
From reading tthis book you will learn more than the ordinary facts about Japan. from reading this book. You are given a personal glimpse into the culture of Japan.
Please see the comments below. There are some criticisms voiced.
ETA: OK I forgot to add an excerpt. Given what has happened there is no reason to laugh. Cathy and her husband Ted spend a New Year's celebration with their friends Maryvonne (French) and her Japanese husband, Ichiro. Out of respect to Japanese customs they had declined participation, but in the end they did come:
Maryvonne has the deep ùelancholy voice of a French cabaret singer. She has not sung a solo tonight. I know, because her Piaf style can coax tears from a stone - and this is not a time for tears. We've Tennessee Waltzed, Mashed Potatoed, and Twisted the night away (after the traditional Japanese celebration). We are in a house in Nigawa, Japan, singing, dancing, and miraculously, Ted and I are laughing.(48%)
You have to read the book to know what has happened.