Meg's Reviews > When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
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Nov 06, 09

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bookshelves: japan, historical-fiction
Read in August, 2009 — I own a copy

This short book is a literary sketch describing a family's experience during the Japanese American internment. The writing is descriptive and evokes clear images of the camp and its residents, but it feels short on plot. Anyone who has ever heard of the relocation knows the basic plot of this book, and there isn't a great deal of character development to carry the story. At points during the time in the camp, the author makes subtle hints about changes, especially in the daughter and mother, but it doesn't feel like these are fully realized, and the reader doesn't see many effects of this changes. Perhaps the most interesting character is actually the father, who appears only briefly in the book.

Given its short length and detailed setting, this book feels more like a very long magazine article than a novel. I would love to see the author use the current story as a framework for a more fully-developed novel.
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