Steven Langdon's Reviews > The Gardens of Kyoto: A Novel

The Gardens of Kyoto by Kate Walbert
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's review
Nov 19, 2011

really liked it

"The Gardens of Kyoto" is a superb and subtle novel that uses the symbol of complex gardens in Kyoto, that were originally to be included in the atomic bomb targets, to explore the manifold dimensions of Ellen's unfolding love for her cousin Randall. Randall dies on Iwo Jima, as the first lines of this book tell us, and Ellen's life is reshaped by that loss. A haunting antiwar composition, this book is also an exploration of the narrow life choices of American women in the post World War Two era. Above all, though, this is a beautifully written tracing of tragedy and loss, of how lives can be distorted, and of the endurance of memory. This is Kate Walbert's first novel, published in 2001, and it is an achievement that is deeply impressive.

As for the Gardens of Kyoto themselves, as the book also recounts, they were saved by what can only be considered chance that led to a change in targets in the final attack on Japan.

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