I have lately become interested in novels focusing on this era and The Gods of Heavenly Punishment delivers a very personal look at how World War I3.5
I have lately become interested in novels focusing on this era and The Gods of Heavenly Punishment delivers a very personal look at how World War II impacted families on both sides of the conflict. Set mostly in Tokyo with bits set in America as well, this novel excelled at showing the hardships, devastation, loneliness, desperation and even glimpses of hope of nations at war.
I immediately connected with the story of shy, handsome Cam Richards and his sweetheart Lacy as Cam prepares to follow his dream of being pilot in the military. We are then introduced to Japan born and Western bred Hana Kobayashi who is mistrusted because of her foreign ways, her seemingly mismatched architect husband Kenji and their bright daughter Yoshi who will become a focal point of the story. Each of these characters stories unfolds in a compelling narrative as Hana desperately seeks the attention she doesn't get from her husband, Yoshi tries to cope with her changing world as revelations about her life and parents are made and Japan goes from a proud nation to one that is struggling to survive.
This book is definitely literary historical fiction but is a surprisingly quick read. The only downfall for me was I would get invested in the storyline of one set of characters and while the transitions between story lines were well done, it was hard for me to switch back to the story arc of a different character. The pacing was a bit slow in spots but I really appreciated the fact that this book was rich with detail and held nothing back in describing the trials of these characters and the hardships brutality that war brings.
I also wished more time had been given to certain characters, namely Lacy but overall I enjoyed this book. The fluid writing and the desire to see what would become of all the characters kept me flying through the pages. I would definitely recommend to those who enjoy character driven World War II era books.
There are two things I've been wanting to do for awhile. One is read more historical fiction novels set during the days of Mao Zedong's Communist C3.5
There are two things I've been wanting to do for awhile. One is read more historical fiction novels set during the days of Mao Zedong's Communist China. The other is to read something by Gail Tsukiyama as I have had all six of her previous novels on my shelf for quite some time. A Hundred Flowers gives a more intimate portrait of the time period by focusing on how the changes in government affected one particular family. Taking place during the 100 Flowers Campaign in which the government encouraged citizens to express their opinions on the government (then used it against them), we meet Tao-a little boy whose father Sheng was taken away to a camp for re-education for writing a letter critical of the government, his mother Kai Ying, Grandfather Wei, and neighbor Song who live in Guangzhou province. The story is told from the points of view of each of these characters, as well as Suyin-a homeless pregnant girl who becomes attached to the family.
The story is really about watching the struggles of these characters unfold in the absence of Sheng and the heartache they experience of not knowing what happened to him-is he alive? Where is he? Is he ever coming home? The story of this family begins several month's after Sheng has been carted off by the government when six-year old Tao decides to climb the old tree in the yard and falls and badly breaks his leg. At the hospital they encounter Suyin who has run away from home to spare her family the shame of her pregnancy. After Sheng is taken Grandfather Wei seems to deteriorate before the family's eyes as if carrying a heavy mental burden and neighbor Song helps where she can but carries a dark secret herself. Kai Ying is the quiet hero of the story who tries to keep everyone together and functioning using her skills as a healer to bring in a meager income for the family.
This is not a plot driven novel. At times you may be left wondering what the purpose is of reading a book about a rather ordinary family that was probably experiencing the same things thousands of families were experiencing at that time. The magic of the novel lies in 2 things: 1) It puts a human face on the suffering of the Chinese people during Chairman Mao's regime. It is so much easier to read about it in the history books and then pass it by when you don't have a "real" persons story behind it. 2) The determination of these characters as they each confront their own issues-worry, shame, guilt, despair-and find a way to get through it. As I read on, all the characters grew on me and I really wanted the best for them in the end. The multiple narratives of the story did take some getting used to but I really enjoyed the writing. This book was not what I was expecting since I thought it would be more of a broader view of the conditions in China but I ended up really liking the revealing family story I got instead.