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The Diplomat's Daughter

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During the turbulent months following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas internment camp. She feels hopeless until she meets handsome young Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, but discover that love can bloom in even the bleakest circumstances.

When Emi and her mother are abruptly sent back to Japan, Christian enlists in the US Army, with his sights set on the Pacific front—and, he hopes, a reunion with Emi—unaware that her first love, Leo Hartmann, the son of wealthy of Austrian parents and now a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, may still have her heart.

Fearful of bombings in Tokyo, Emi’s parents send her to a remote resort town in the mountains, where many in the foreign community have fled. Cut off from her family, struggling with growing depression and hunger, Emi repeatedly risks her life to help keep her community safe—all while wondering if the two men she loves are still alive.

As Christian Lange struggles to adapt to life as a soldier, his unit pushes its way from the South Pacific to Okinawa, where one of the bloodiest battles of World War II awaits them. Meanwhile, in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, as Leo fights to survive the squalor of the Jewish ghetto, a surprise confrontation with a Nazi officer threatens his life. For each man, Emi Kato is never far from their minds.

Flung together by war, passion, and extraordinary acts of selflessness, the paths of these three remarkable young people will collide as the fighting on the Pacific front crescendos. With her “elegant and extremely gratifying” (USA Today) storytelling, Karin Tanabe paints a stunning portrait of a turning point in history.

451 pages, Paperback

First published July 11, 2017

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About the author

Karin Tanabe

7 books711 followers
KARIN TANABE is the author of six novels, including A Hundred Suns and The Gilded Years (soon to be a major motion picture starring Zendaya, who will produce alongside Reese Witherspoon/Hello Sunshine). A former Politico reporter, she has also written for The Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday. She has appeared as a celebrity and politics expert on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and CBS Early Show. A graduate of Vassar College, Karin lives in Washington, D.C.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 362 reviews
Profile Image for Katherine.
769 reviews346 followers
July 12, 2017
:Wails and wails:

:Sees she has an audience, composes herself, and starts to speak:

Let me tell you a little story, people.

The day is finally here: the release date of your most anticipated book. You preordered it months ago after reading the synopsis. Said synopsis contained all the plot points you loved. It would be a slam dunk read. It had to be. You hit the preorder button. You wait patiently for release day to arrive, low-key stalking the book’s Goodreads page for reviews.

Then the day comes. The mail arrives. Your book is supposed to come in the mail on release day thanks to a great invention known as Amazon Prime. It arrives. Holy crap, you’ve anticipated this book so badly that even the packaging looks beautiful. You open it and the heavens sing; it’s just so damn beautiful!

You forget about the chores you have to do that day, and every other seemingly unimportant thing. You’ve waited this long to read this sucker; now it’s time to inhale read it in one sitting. So you open the book and begin to read, just knowing that this book you’ve waited so long for will be pure magic.

But then something unexpected happens. Something you never saw coming.

The book isn’t as magical as you thought it would be. The further you read on, the worse it gets. Slowly, it starts to become a train wreck so painful you want to avert your eyes. Finally, it becomes so unbearable that you have to stop. ‘I surrender’, you say. And then you wallow in the shadows feeling absolutely gutted because you’ve come to dislike the book you were so anticipating.

Don’t you hate it when that happens, y’all?

This is the exact scenario that I find myself in now, dear readers. This was my most anticipated book of the year, but the further I got into the story, the worse it got. Ultimately it got to the point where it was unbearable to read, so I had to put it down.

So what went wrong, you say? Observe the reasons.

1) The synopsis was misleading
Not in the ways you think, though. The book was marketed as a WWII drama with a romantic struggle between Emi Kato (the Japanese diplomat’s daughter), Leo Hartmann (an Austrian Jew), and Christian Lange (a German American). However, the book pretty much spends all its time on the romance, or Emi rambling on and on with her romantic thoughts about Leo and Christian. Where some might be expecting WWII atrocities will get that, but in much smaller doses than they might want. Instead, I was treated to purple prose thoughts about how no one will ever replace Leo,
”The best part of Vienna was of course Leo Hartmann.”
, and how Christian Lange was a nice little thing to not really think about, even though it’s the exact opposite.
”Christian Lange was a fling that should have been avoided. She could have avoided it, she scolded herself. But she didn’t. Because if she was honest, there was something about him she was fervently drawn to, something she needed in those painful months, locked inside their peculiar desert prison, that only he could give.”
It was just too much for me. Not to mention that with all the bemoaning Emi does for Leo, we don’t even see him until about halfway through the damn novel..

2)The Characters Are Perfect with Little Change Affecting Them
I call this the ‘Danielle Steel’ syndrome. Danielle Steel is this ridonkulously popular author of women’s fiction. She’s a superhuman writing machine that manages to crank out 3-4 novels per year. And her characters are all perfection. They poop rainbows, unicorns and sunshine. While reading this book, I felt the very same way about the characters that I do when reading a Danielle Steel novel. Emi is beautiful and speaks three languages! She’s the perfect Japanese daughter! Christian is a lost Hemsworth brother with his German good looks and is good everything!
”He’d been prenaturally good at everything a teenager in Wisconsin needed to be good at. He was book-smart enough, but not too smart to draw attention, he drove a nice car he worked on with his dad even when it didn’t need work, he excelled in sports, and he was very well-liked by girls and their mothers.”
Leo Hartmann is literally so perfect that as soon as his mother saw his wee little bairn face, she didn’t want another child. Ever. I KID YOU NOT.
”Leo Hartmann was a good son. He had been an easy baby to take care of, and in later years he was certainly going to be a good man.”
These kids are so perfect they cause their parents to not want more children. SWEET JESUS.

This could have worked, however. I can see how it could have. If the characters are perfect in seemingly imperfect and horrific circumstances, the farther they have to fall. This could have been a great character arc in the sense that since these characters are so perfect and have been so isolated in their own little bubble for their entire lives, the more they are affected by their experiences and will come out stronger, more mature individuals in the end. And for the most part, they do. Especially Christian; ironically, the youngest of the three made the most change.
”Christian’s stomach turned at the thought of it. He, who had up until a few months ago thought hardship was a football game that ended in defeat, a cold winter that you weren’t quite dressed for, or a girl who wasn’t interested in you as you hoped. Those were the little wars that Christian had waged. Now he was going to be dropped in Nazi Germany.”
Everyone, except the character that mattered.

3)Emi Never Changed or Matured At All
Out of all the characters, she was the one I liked least. She never learned or changed from her experiences. She started out the book whiny and privileged, and she ended up right back where she started. One of the main points of a story is to see how characters have grown and matured from their experiences. And yet Emi didn’t do any one of those things. From what I read (and skim-read to the end), while she was somewhat affected by the events she experienced (the concentration camp, her time in Vienna), she came out in the end with all the bad qualities she had at the start. I would have liked to see her grow and mature more than she actually did. And it was becoming unbearable for me to read about her.

I will give the author credit where the credit is due, in that she doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of the time period. However, I felt she did a lot of telling us what happened than using her words to show us what happened. The writing felt a bit flat to me, as I didn’t feel I was truly transported into the story like I usually am.

This is perhaps the biggest disappointment for me, mainly because it was my most anticipated book of the year. I totally fell for the synopsis, but in the end didn’t live up to it’s expectations. Too much emphasis on the love triangle, characters that never changed their spots, and flat writing bogged this potentially amazing read down.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
977 reviews2,662 followers
June 25, 2017
I would actually rate this book a 3.5 if I could.

I love historical fiction and have read many books about WWII but this book promised a different aspect of the war that I hadn’t heard about. The author’s note at the beginning of the book states “My Japanese father was three years old when the firebombing of Tokyo and Yokohama occurred in May of 1945. . . . .his first memory was seeing his city on fire. My uncle who was ten remembered more including the swishing sound the napalm made as it hit the water and the children screaming “it hurts, it hurts”. “My understanding of the war all started with my father being attacked by American bombs.” Regarding the internment camps, “I discovered that in fact more than 11,000 German-Americans were interned, many having been held alongside the Japanese in a family camp in Crystal City, Texas”. From this and all of her research and writer’s gift of imagination grew the story of the three main protagonists in this book.

Emo Kato is the Diplomat’s daughter who traveled extensively with her parents and was used to a very special kind of life, a life of privilege and comfort. They are made to flee Vienna and go to Washington when Hitler’s army invades Vienna.

While in Vienna however Emo meets Leo Hartmann, who attends the same school, he is the son of an Austrian-Jewish banker and Emo and Leo share a young romance enhanced by their love of music and Emo’s expertise in playing their priceless, hand painted Steinway. With the rise of anti-Semitism throughout Europe the Hartmann’s are also made to flee for their lives.

With the Japanese involvement in the war the internment of the Japanese in the U.S. begins. Even the diplomats are not above reproach although they are given somewhat more preferential treatment.

In the internment camp Emo meets Christian Lange, the son of a German born steel baron from Wisconsin. A man had falsely accused Mr. Lange of some traitorous actions with the Germans, though we are never really told what that is. Christian was at the hospital visiting his mother who had suffered a tragic loss and met Emo who was working as a nurse’s aid. By this time Emo is a bit older and she and Christian fall in love and have a bit of a romantic involvement for the brief time that they are together.

I will be honest here in stating that the romantic encounters in this book I felt to be somewhat weak and at times silly, perhaps it was because the main characters were so young. I felt that the parents of the youth were not particularly well described and it was hard to get a feel for what their family life really was like.

It was interesting to learn that there were others besides Japanese in the internment camps, Germans and also Italians were interned. I also had no idea that some Jewish people fled to Shanghai and that it was a refuge during the war. It appears that it was only the people with some financial means that were able to flee there.

In 1943 the US ordered 1,340 people to be deported to Germany and Japan to trade for “Americans that the government cared for, that they wanted returned safely: missionaries, teachers, journalists and some POW’s”. Japanese-Americans and German-Americans would go in their places. The ship also stopped in Brazil and other ports to pick up additional passengers who were being traded, the reader never really gets any information about how these people were chosen and why they were being deported.

In the end I felt that I had lots of unanswered questions, things that were touched upon and then never really revealed. What happened to the homes and property of those interned? How does Christian find Emo after the war? How were the people chosen who were to be traded for other Americans? When the passengers were allowed off of the ship in Brazil, why did no one attempt to flee? I felt the story was a little disjointed, focusing a lot on the young romances with facts about the war woven in.

There is some good writing here for sure and I will look forward to Ms. Tanabe’s next novel. I was provided an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

Profile Image for Nadya.
2 reviews
April 24, 2017
Karin Tanabe’s “The Diplomat’s Daughter,” outwardly a meditation on love in a time of war, pushes boundaries to reveal a sensitive exploration of three young adults forced into confronting the fragility of a world where, as Yeats once so aptly noted, “the center cannot hold.” Through Emi Kato, the novel’s heroine (and eponymous diplomat’s daughter), we are introduced to separate, but equally harrowing, representations of the decaying human condition: Anti-Semitic Austria, American internment camps, squalid Shanghai ghettos, austerity and starvation in war-time Japan, and the blood stained South Pacific front lines.

The breadth of the novel is enormous, and yet Tanabe is able to gather each thread with a deftness that provides an incredibly satisfying experience for those who like their historical fiction to be cinematically epic. While there are no shortage of books revolving around WWII, “The Diplomat’s Daughter,” differs in that it offers a chance to delve into lesser known atrocities of the era. I was particularly moved by the depiction of Shanghai, where Leo Hartmann, Emi’s childhood sweetheart, finds himself struggling to survive with his family after fleeing Nazi Austria. Tanabe show us that while Leo avoids certain death due to the benevolence of the Japanese, he is still marginalized by their alliance with the Axis powers, and that his Chinese neighbors suffer even more. It’s this kind of “give with one hand, take from the other” observation that makes the novel so powerful. Tanabe has a knack for illustrating the contradictory grey areas that come from the political clashing with the human.

If you are familiar with, and enjoyed, Karin Tanabe’s previous foray into historical fiction, “The Gilded Years,” then you will very much enjoy “The Diplomat’s Daughter.” Her usual eye for detail remains keen, and her vivid characterizations unparalleled.

*This review was based on an advance copy of the novel.
Profile Image for Lucy-May.
448 reviews29 followers
January 30, 2018
This is my favourite read of this year so far & will probably remain my favourite by the time the year ends. I adored everything about this story & its characters & I cannot wait to write my full length review on my blog.

The Diplomat's Daughter is in part a story of love, but is also a story of hope, tragedy & survival. I read scenes unlike any other I've read before & also learnt things about the war that I did not know before. This book is beautiful in every way & Karin Tanabe has done an incredible job with it. I was given an advanced copy of this book to review & I cannot say how glad I am that I was.

Extended Review: https://wp.me/p8MbIo-gS
Profile Image for Annette.
743 reviews321 followers
September 17, 2019
This story brings lesser known aspects of WWII of German/Japanese internment camp in Crystal City in South Texas; of the FBI right to search any house of German descent since US was at war with Germany. And that’s what happens to Christian’s prominent family. Their house is searched and they are sent to the camp, where he meets Emi, daughter of Japanese diplomat.

The story goes back in time to 1937 Vienna, when Emi’s and Leo’s story is revealed. It touches upon the brewing anti-Semitic movement before WWII. Leo comes from prominent Jewish family. And how some Jews obtained visas to enter Shanghai under Japanese control at the time.

Once in China, the life of Jewish family is presented. It’s not easy as Leo is chased by other boys and called names, but at least he feels there safe.

I appreciate stories, which bring lesser known facts, but this story is very flat. There is nothing engrossing about it. Historical facts are stated instead of being presented in action. The story of two young people falling in love is more appropriate for YA audience, including some of the dialogue and descriptions.

@FB: Best Historical Fiction
Profile Image for Darla.
3,252 reviews488 followers
July 20, 2017
A big thanks for Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. This is my second book by Karin Tanabe; I read "The Gilded Years" in 2016 and I was looking forward to this new perspective on WW II.

Indeed this book did provide a multitude of information that I had never read about before regarding the Japanese and Germans interned together in Texas and then exchanged for citizens coming back to America from their respective countries. For concept and new perspective as well as the author's own connection to the war in Japan, I would give this book five stars.

The stories of these young people give us all a firsthand look at the hardships experienced by so many factions of society in so many countries during the war. Money was no guarantee of comfort and even though these three families lived in luxury before Hitler came into power -- their accumulated money, treasures an social status were nearly useless with the exception of having more resources to exit a country where death is certain and go to a location where they could at least eke out survival.

We are also reminded (as in "The Gilded Cage") of the walls and barriers faced by those who were the wrong color, wrong nationality or wrong religion. The perception of "wrong" being in the mind of those in Austria, America and Japan. It is hard to read about these situations and see the ingrained prejudices. What will our descendants see in our attitudes and actions when they read out stories?

As I read the book I did find that some of the story was slowed down to a crawl while other aspects were glossed over. Why did the Japanese hate the Chinese in Shanghai so much? Did Leo's family realized how badly Emi was treated by the Hitler Youth right outside their home? How did Christian find Emi after the war? What happened to Christian's father?
Profile Image for Paloma.
530 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2022

Review in English | Review in Spanish

I am torn on how I feel about this book. While I did not find it particularly awful (it was not painful to read and I kept returning to it as I wanted to know what was next), it was not whatI expected, and I was left wanting for more. What specifically? Perhaps more romance, as the synopsis says this is the story of three people who met under a time of war, and who fell in love. To be honest, the description leads you to believe there will be a love triangle between Emi (Japanese and the diplomat's daughter), Leo (Austrian Jew) and Christian (German American), but the truth is that they crossed paths in maybe 20% of the book and that was it. What follows is the story of how they endured war in separate ways while they cherished memories of their young love. I was disappointed because, yes, I wanted a love triangle, I wanted feelings and passion, and there was nothing of it. So if you go into this book looking for a solid romance historical novel, this is not for you.

Having acknowledged this, I found the book interesting as it presents different topics to the ones we normally see on a WWII historical fiction: while we do see the cruelty of Nazism and the crimes against Jews, we also learn of the suffering Japanese and Germans Americans experienced on camps in the United States; the grief of those deported to countries they could no longer call home; and the courage of those who helped Jews in other places, such as China. For example, I had no idea Shanghai had been home to thousands of Jews fleeing Europe, and who managed to survive regardless of Japanese control. This offered a very different perspective on WWII and has raised my interest in finding out more about those other stories and voices that suffered during this war.

La verdad que no sé cómo sentirme con respecto a esta novela: si bien no fue mala (de hecho, me pareció entretenida y siempre regresaba a la lectura deseando saber qué seguía en la historia), creo que mi problema fue que no resultó lo que esperaba. La sinopsis del libro da a entender que se trata de un romance entre tres personas que se conocen durante una época de guerra y que por lo mismo, son separadas, hasta reencontrarse. O por lo menos eso entendí. Pero, la realidad es que Emi (japonesa y la hija del diplomático), Leo (austríaco judío) y Christian (alemán americano) coinciden quizá en un 20 por cierto del libro y luego, cada quién lleva una vida separada, enfrentando las consecuencias de la guerra de distintas formas y recordando su amor de juventud. Y esto no es en sí malo, pero a mí me vendieron una historia de amor y sí, yo quería el triángulo amoroso, las peleas, las dudas y pues... no hubo. Entonces si buscas un romance desgarrador y pasional, éste no es el libro.

Por otra parte, rescato que la novela toma temas y perspectivas poco exploradas en la narrativa de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Además de obviamente tratar el tema del holocausto y el nazismo, no solo se queda en Austria y Alemania sino que transporta la historia a la relación con Japón y China. Asimismo, retrata los sufrimientos de los miles de japoneses y alemanes americanos que fueron encerrados en campos de concentración en los Estados Unidos, humillados y regresados a países que nunca fueron su patria. También me resultó nuevo saber que Shangai fue hogar de cientos de judíos que huyeron de Europa y en donde trataron de reconstruir su vida, cosa que no fue sencilla considerando la presencia japonesa. Estas perspectivas me parecieron muy interesantes y sin duda, me dejaron con la intención de investigar más sobre estos temas.
Profile Image for Lori.
141 reviews8 followers
July 9, 2017
“She watched the world in front of her, the horizon line now impossible to discern, and thought that even when men were trying their best to become monsters, nature refused to give in. What was beyond her couldn’t be easily altered by human stupidity.” ("The Diplomat’s Daughter", Prologue)

At its best, historical fiction transports you to a time and a place where reality and the imaginary co-exist. From the outset, "The Diplomat’s Daughter" by Karin Tanabe did just that. It surprised me how quickly I was drawn in as Tanabe delicately weaved together the stories of three young people during World War II: a Japanese diplomat’s daughter, an Austrian Jew, and a first generation German American. The novel moves quickly around the world as it unveils the often overlooked horrors faced by German and Japanese Americans, displaced European Jews, the Japanese, and even the Chinese people. Tanabe tells their stories with honor and dignity as she sheds light on this troubled time in our world’s history.

No matter where the novel took me—Virginia, Texas, Vienna, Shanghai, or Tokyo—I was impressed with the overwhelming strength of its characters. Whatever terrors they faced, Emi, Christian, and Leo fought with all their might to maintain their humanity, and that of others. Tanabe reinforces this fact with a superb cast of supporting characters; Jack, Inge, Keiko, and Jin were exceptionally developed and I came to care for each of them just as much as the main characters.

"The Diplomat’s Daughter" is a breathtaking journey around the world and into the hearts of three people fighting for life—and not just life, but also love, honor, and a place to call home. I greatly appreciated this novel and its ability to open my eyes to places, people, and events that were a mystery to me. I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come, Emi, Christian, and Leo will continue to haunt my mind and inspire my heart to love and serve those around me.
Profile Image for RoseMary Achey.
1,346 reviews
January 7, 2018
This is the story of three young people during WWII. The story is set in a wide variety of locations from an internment camp in the United States to the Japanese countryside and many points in between.

The writing was acceptable, however the characters were extremely stereotypical and flat. There are many books that are set during WWII era. Unfortunately, The Diplomat's Daughter does not rank as one of the best for me.
Profile Image for Richard.
586 reviews9 followers
October 16, 2017
Having a long time interest in and a pretty extensive familiarity with Japanese culture and history as well as a fondness for historical fiction the blurb about this book piqued my interest. Unfortunately, for me it was just about equal parts disappointment as it was success. The success was its having taught me about German American internment in the USA, the European Jews living in Shanghai, and the foreign community being placed in Karuizawa Japan during WWII. Not knowing about any of these I found it worthwhile to learn about them the disappointment was that none of them were explored in as much depth as I would have preferred.

Neither were the three main characters developed anywhere near the extent to which I hoped. Emiko showed glimmerings of becoming something more than a beautiful young woman whose language and musical skills were remarkable during the time she was in Karuizawa. But alas that was not to be as all she could seem to think about was her longings for the men she loved. Christian's struggles with being in combat afforded him opportunities, as well, to become more than just a good looking hunk. Leo made perhaps the most gains over the course of the time he lived in Shanghai. But his character, too, left me unfulfilled.

If Tanabe did as much research as she claimed in prepping for this book, she sure did not apply it very thoroughly. At best, it is a fast paced history light romance novel where the characters are stereotypes rather than flesh and blood for the most part. Maybe a good read while one is looking for entertainment on vacation. Certainly not something serious. Maybe a 2.5 but not a 3.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
43 reviews15 followers
September 29, 2017
I have not found many books with stories told from the point of view of Asians and their American experiences. As an Asian American, I am always thrilled to come across a title that incorporates real world Asian perspectives, especially those that can mix in multicultural characters and varied geographical settings. This book manages to do this wonderfully. The experiences are vividly drawn from true accounts, and the global nature of World War II is depicted beautifully in the book.

Where I found it lacking was in character development. Emi, the Japanese diplomat's daughter, and her romantic interests, Christian and Leo, have so much potential. Emi's growth as a young woman in a world filled with conflict and a culture rooted in tradition doesn't quite reach a satisfying ending for me. Christian, whose German-born parents face unimaginable atrocities as falsely accused Nazi supporters, is introduced as so young and pampered and innocent; it was difficult for me to believe his journey since his experiences felt rushed and forced. Leo, the son of wealthy Austrian parents, didn't receive the attention he deserved given his introduction in the first half of the book. It's almost as if Leo is an after thought.

Overall, I enjoyed the story for its setting and background. My tastes are more for character-driven narratives, though, so I'm giving this title three stars. I will continue to follow Ms. Tanabe's career, as I feel she is a very talented writer.
Profile Image for Patricia Doyle.
401 reviews11 followers
December 2, 2018
The Diplomat’s Daughter is the story of Emiko Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat and of how she was jostled all over the world because of her father’s job and then because of the war.

It’s the story of Emi’s two true loves, Leo and Christian. Will she end up with Leo; will she end up with Christian?

It’s also a story of WWII history and of how people were treated less than humanely, including internment for Japanese and German Americans and more. Conditions were deplorable.

Unfortunately, there were too many historical facts along with geographical facts – and not enough story – that it often read like a history textbook. I expected my old college History professor to walk in with a stack of blue essay test pamphlets. (I’ll bet colleges don’t do that anymore.)

Many of the storylines were weak and shallow and dragged on way too long with repeats, redundancies, and predictabilities. The characters were weak and shallow as well. I had looked forward to reading this book since I had so enjoyed The Gilded Years, but, sadly, I was disappointed.

Note: “… slept with …”, a term used many times throughout the book was not a euphemism used in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
October 28, 2020
Full review and others originally found on my blog Sometimes Leelynn Reads

All in all, I believe this was a good intro to Tanabe for me. I wasn’t expecting a WWII novel like this and I’m glad that I got to read this as opposed to one focusing on Europe and the Holocaust. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it’s been overused and sometimes… it’s just too much to get into. I liked the Kato family a lot, and Emi was a character that I was happy to get to know. I liked Tanabe as an author, and I think she did a great job with the research that she did in order to bring justice to this novel. You could see the personal influences that she added to this story as she mentioned in her author’s note, and I feel like it made the story that much more special to me.

I think that people should definitely try this out, and I’m glad to try her other books.
Profile Image for Judi Ross.
487 reviews10 followers
November 15, 2018
3 1/2 rounded up. I read this because I have an opportunity to hear the author speak next month. I have read many historical fiction novels revolving around World War II but I think this is the first that actually takes place mainly in America and in the Pacific. The novel tells the story of three young adults. First we meet Emi, the Japanese teenage daughter of a diplomat. She meets Leo, a wealthy young Austrian Jewish teen. Further along, Emi, back in America meets Christian, the teen son of wealthy German parents living in Wisconsin. The experiences that each has takes us to Crystal City, Texas, The Pacific war zones, Shanghai and Japan towards the end of the war. What I liked; I learned about life not in Europe. What I didn’t like; the characters and their relationships could have been written for a young adult audience. This was a tremendous undertaking by the author. She shows that she did an amazing amount of research and covered a lot of territory. I learned many new things about this period in history.
Profile Image for Ellen.
1,700 reviews7 followers
April 4, 2017
Emi Kato is the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, moving around the world with her family. Unfortunately, she is caught up in America and sent to an internment camp with her mother. Prior to her American posting, Emi and her family are in Vienna, during the late 1930's, where she falls in love with Leo, a young Jewish man. While in the internment camp, Emi meets Christian, a German-American who also ends up interned when his parents are falsely accused of being pro-Nazi. The story is much more than a romance - the vivid scenes capture life in the internment camps, in Shanghai when Leo and his family escape from Vienna, in the US army fight against Japan, and in Japan where starvation leads to extreme actions. A good read, with lessons to be learned for the political scene we find ourselves in today.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,180 reviews62 followers
August 13, 2017
I was looking forward to reading this book due to the subject matter. I was hoping it would be thoughtfully addressed in a meaningful and intellectual way. Instead what I got was a lite version of history. It's as if the author created a silly love story and then plugged it into a moment in history that she thought was interesting. It sort of trivializes history, but if you know nothing about this era of history then I suppose it is worth a read. The story flows smoothly, if a bit preposterously, but again, I can't help wish that the author had dug a bit deeper and treated the subject matter with more respect.

I also suspect that her research was limited to other novels written about the Jews in Shanghai and the Japanese American internment. Shallow, but if all you're looking for is a good story, then you may enjoy it.
Profile Image for Laura.
56 reviews
August 10, 2017
It's difficult to give 5 stars to a book that details the devastation of WWII. This novel intertwines the lives of three people-- one who is a Japanese diplomat's daughter, one who is German American, and one who is an Austrian Jew -- and outlines the utter devastation of the fruit of hatred in Austria, an American internment camp, Shanghai, the Philippines, and a Japanese mountain town. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.
Profile Image for Angela.
15 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2018
Interesting story idea, but the dialogue was stilted boilerplate, making it hard to believe in the characters.
649 reviews20 followers
April 20, 2017
I received a copy of this book through netgalley. I thank them, the publisher, and the author for making this book available. My opinions on this book are given freely and not influenced by the receipt of this book.

The story of the Diplomat’s Daughter revolves around three families, The Katos from Japan, the Hartmanns from Austria, and the Langes from the United States. Norio Kato is a Japanese diplomat who travels the world with his family in service to his country. Those travels bring his daughter into contact with the other families, primarily the sons of those families, Leo and Christian. There are elements of romance and a bit of promiscuity among these young people, but the true tale in the book is one of survival and perseverance in the face of hate and deprivation.

I loved the beginning of this book, when it did a good job of illustrating the horror of the pre-war years in Vienna and the cruelty the United States showed to honest, hardworking, and loyal residents. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, the book took a turn toward soap opera. Things became overly contrived and melodramatic. Characters became stupid and whiny. I wanted to reach into the words and shake them. In the early parts of the book, I thought Leo was a wonderful, intelligent, kind young man. Later, he just turns stupid, and it costs him. Looking back from the end of the book, I’m not exactly sure why he and his family were included in the story. Their involvement does help to show Norio Kato as a good and helpful man, and it allows the author to show the horrors of pre-war Vienna and the deplorable, but mostly safe for Jews, conditions in Shanghai during the war, but other than that, there’s little cause for them to take up space. I will add that I thought that both Leo’s and Christian’s mothers were selfish, self-involved women, Helene more so than Hani.

His mother needed him, she told him constantly.

I mean who writes to their son, who is fighting in a war, and tells him that if he is killed, she’s going to throw herself into a river?

There’s so much in this book that isn’t explained, like why ethnic Japanese citizens and legal residents of South American countries wound up in internment camps in the United States, or why ships carrying deportees from the US would stop in Brazil to pick up additional passengers who were long-time citizens and legal residents of that country. Some background on that would have been helpful in understanding the book better. Beyond those questions, what bothers me the most is all the questions I’ve been left with after completing this book, from the frivolous to the important, in no particular order:

Did anything in the Vienna apartment survive?

Did the Hartmann’s chauffeur survive?

What happened to the Lange house, factory, and money? Are they ever returned to Christian? He would be the rightful owner.

Does the man who falsely reported the Langes and took over their properties receive any punishment for having done so?

Why did John Sasaki embellish Norio's letter to Emi when he translated it for Christian?

After the war ends, how does Christian know where to find Emi?

Those are just some of the questions that are left hanging at the end of the book, which makes me wonder if the author plans a sequel.

All is not for naught. There are moments of prosaic brilliance in this tome.

It was the year that the world started melting at the edges, tolerance seeping through the cracks, unable to be saved.

Instead of the exhaustion and dread that were caked onto Christian’s face, they appeared buoyed by the glamour of the uniform, the heroics of war, perhaps even the probable death that was looming for them.

Sadly, there were also a ton of silly errors, like the crew of a ship handing out chocolate just as they’re hitting rough waters. Why would they do that when they tell the people that they’d intended to give the chocolate out at the mid-point of a two month voyage? And worse, they tell the people not to eat the chocolate because of the turbulent seas? People who have had little to eat for months in internment. Or allowing women to swim in pools without swim caps, something that wouldn’t have been allowed as pool pumps would have been destroyed by caught hairs. Swim caps were required in pools up into the 1980s! Repeatedly, the issue of mail comes up, how Emi, Leo, and Christian talk about sending mail between the warring nations. Why would anyone think that was a possibility? Yet the book belabors that issue, even going to the point of suggesting that it would be possible to send mail through embassies of their own countries or those of friendly countries. It’s very unrealistic. Also, I would have liked some explanation of how the things that happened to the Langes happened. What legal course was in place that would allow thing like that to happen? And since Christian was a native born US citizen and almost of age, why did he need to join his parents in the internment camp and face deportation? It’s irritating to have to go do my own research when that information should be included in the book. It doesn’t take much, just a paragraph or two to fill in the blanks and keep the reader for having these questions float around in their minds, pulling them out of the reading. Mostly, overall, the author should have done more research to make sure all of her facts were accurate and made sure that the reader had enough information to understand how things worked and why they were important. When reading a novel, I shouldn't need to go away from it to investigate on my own. Novels are meant for entertainment; they're not a research project.

One other thing that irked me, and may very well fall to the lack of research by the author, is that not only were Japanese and Germans interned during WWII. Italians were as well, yet I think there was only one very brief mention of them. I can understand why the author may not have wanted to go into detail about a whole other nationality of people interned, but I would think that would have been worthwhile if she at least spent a few paragraphs dealing with the enormity of the problem. I do recommend checking out Lisa Scottoline's book that deals with this, Killer Smile. It's a novel, but it delves into the history of this segment of America's shameful history of interning people, even native born people, because of the actions of those far away. We really need to learn a lesson from this to prevent it from happening again.

While I enjoyed reading this book, and loved Emiko, her spunk and caring nature, and her parents, I’m disappointed with how things progressed and ended. I did read an advanced copy of the book, so there is the final editing process repaired many of these errors. I hope so.
Profile Image for Romancing the Book.
4,420 reviews211 followers
October 14, 2018
Reviewed by Danielle U
Book provided by the publisher
Originally posted at Romancing the Book

The Diplomat’s Daughter by Karin Tanabe looked appealing to the eyes as a reader. Even the description of the plot sounded entertaining. But it greatly lacked in that direction. The three main protagonists were dull. Not one of them really made this a great book. The did little to add to the story. Their brief time interacting with each other was the most engaging part. However, they spent the rest of the book thinking of each other. It felt like one bad love sick romance gone wrong. I couldn’t connect with the German man, nor the Australian man. The Japanese woman was the most immature center character that I have ever followed in a story. She experiences a tough time through the historical time periods but never becomes what I would expect from her. Usually, a character changes to become someone who has seen and gone through things that make them more believable. She was just a pain in the butt from the get go.

Karin Tanabe did convey the war zones and time periods correctly. I enjoyed that part. The characterization just fell apart and never got fixed. It got worse as I continued to read. The Diplomat’s Daughter is about a young Japanese woman who ends up falling in love with two different men. Funny part they were more likable than she ever was. It was a crazy love triangle but I was overjoyed when one of the men got a woman who was more human than Emi, the Japanese woman. Emi appeared selfish, snobbish, and acted like a spoiled brat throughout everything. She reminded me of Anne Frank. Sure, I felt sorry of what times they struggled with to survive but neither woman is one that I would have liked as a friend. Overall, I would not recommend this read to anyone.
Profile Image for Elaine Nickolan.
441 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2018
I truly enjoyed this book. This story is about 3 young people, growing up at a time of uncertainty just before WWII breaks out. One is a young Japanese girl, daughter to a Diplomat from Japan stationed in Washington DC, one is a young man of Jewish heritage in Vienna, and one is a young man born in the USA to German immigrant parents. Their lives come together thru Emi, the young girl who is the lead character in this book. Leo, the young man from Vienna,met and fell in love with Emi while her father served there as a Diplomat. They go thru some very difficult times as Hitler begins his war of terror on the Jewish population in Europe. Emi's father gets reassigned to the USA and Pearl Harbor jolts the US into war now with Japan. Emi, due to certain circumstances, becomes interned at a camp in Texas where she meets Christian, the young German man also interned there with his family. Things become confused and young love blossoms again for Emi, who has not heard anything from Leo in Vienna in years. The story tells of the trials and tribulations each young person goes thru. What will each do for love? What keeps them going when so many have given up. While I understand this may not be 100% accurate as a historical novel, I can accept the book for the work of fiction it is without holding the author accountable for total accuracy. This book touched me in such a way that the story will stay with me for a long time. Kudos to Ms. Tanabe for this wonderful tale.
Profile Image for Dawn (& Ron).
155 reviews29 followers
May 11, 2018
I found I very much enjoyed Emi's story, the eponymous main character, and those of her two love interests. Leo, the son of a wealthy Jewish couple in Austria and Christian, a wealthy son of a German couple born and raised in the US. Karen Tanabe managed to keep all three threads of the story relevant and interesting. The reader travels from the Nazi take over of Austria, to America before and after Pearl Harbor, then on to Shanghai, Okinawa, Tokyo and a small town in the mountains of Japan.

"Trust me, you are far luckier than I was. I was taught that the only reason to better myself was so that I might
marry a remarkable man. No one told me to be remarkable myself. "

I love learning and discovering new perspectives or aspects of events such as Pearl Harbor from Japanese living in America. I had to stop and interrupt my reading of this book to read a couple of library books that were due back soon. I found myself wishing I could get back to this read sooner rather than later.

I found the ending came too quick, wrapped up almost too tidily. I don't often wish for a book to be longer but did in this case. I would have liked to have followed the storyline of the parents after they are separated from their children. Another issue was a mistake with timing, the reader is told an event happened a week ago and several paragraphs later told it was a couple of months. Things like this pull me, no yank me right out of the story.

There is of course violence and distressing scenes as expected for a war novel. An attempted rape and the death of a baby may be problematic for some. There is happiness, joy, warmth, and love to be found within too.

"To me you are still the good that exists in the world. "
Profile Image for Onceinabluemoon.
2,544 reviews58 followers
August 19, 2017
FANTASTIC! I feel like I have been through the wringer. I have been reading this for a good seven hours of the day, when I get tense I find my tongue pressed tight against my teeth, I see I will have to shower to relax myself and step away from the vibrancy of war. I think the synopsis does a disservice to this book, it sounds like a romance novel, something I detest, but I was intrigued by the cover and gave it a go.

I don't even know where to begin, the book evolves so deeply you forget the good days... the character is a strong smart female, there were so many words of wisdom imparted it made wish i was in a book club to discuss its merits. I know the book is based on her two loves, but I was immersed in the historical aspect, I love to learn, reading about war from several continents was illuminating. So often I was brought to tears thinking long and hard about the world of hate, then and now. It is painful to see the underbelly of society heading our news now when we have already lived this nightmare. There was a rawness reading this that made me more vulnerable to the atrocities of war. I thought it was excellent, I felt the hunger, smelled the fear and simmered with rage, her writing took me deep into the words. So happy I tried this, as horrid as the topic of war is, we must always face our past and pray for a better future.
Profile Image for Kate.
362 reviews
December 10, 2018
The Diplomat's Daughter is a different WWII perspective than I have read in other historical fiction. It is told from the point of view of three young people: a young Japanese woman in an internment camp in the US and then returned to Japan, her Jewish boyfriend from Vienna and her German-American boyfriend also in the internment camp. I was hopeful when I started that this new perspective would hold me while reading about an event well-represented on the shelves of historical fiction. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The characters are flat and their relationships, which should be emotionally charged, seem to lack energy. Even the fighting in the Pacific comes across without the horror it should evoke.

This would have been a 2 star (it was okay), however learning about the Japanese countryside and China during WWII was new to me and I appreciated that in a novel format.
Profile Image for Stacy Wilhoit DeCoste.
501 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2022
Crystal City, Texas was the location of an internment camp. In 1942, Christian Lange (who was born in the US) and his German parents were sent there. He soon met Emi Kato, whose father was a Japanese diplomat. Together, they spent their days waiting. Because the Lange family was Jewish, they did not want to be repatriated to Germany. With the help of the Mr. Kato, Mr. and Mrs. Lange got visas to China, and joined a Jewish enclave in Shanghai. Christian joined the American army. The Katos were repatriated to Japan. Emi and her family had always lived a privileged life in many different cities around the world. She could speak fluent English, German and Japanese. But nothing prepared her for the devastation and starvation in war weary Japan. This is an interesting story of told from the point of view of German and Japanese nationals who lived in the US at the time of the war.
Profile Image for Jackie.
563 reviews11 followers
August 10, 2021
The story of three young adults--a Jew in Vienna, a second-generation American of German heritage, and the Japanese diplomat's daughter--as they navigate their lives and relationships in pre-WWII and during the war. Focus is on how the war and its side effects affect each of their lives separately and the diplomat's daughter's relationships with the two men. I learned some history that I wasn't aware of before.

Profile Image for Greta.
832 reviews4 followers
January 7, 2023
Karin Tanabe describes what it is like to be the daughter of a Japanese diplomat at the outbreak of WWII. Her story is not one I've heard before and includes another story of German business owners who are also negatively affected by the war. Living in an internment camp is something both families have in common for a very short but decisive time in their lives.
508 reviews3 followers
March 18, 2020
Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2020-A book written by a woman of color.

This book was good, but I don't have it in me to write a review right now. Maybe someday if and when I stop being afraid every minute of the day.
January 13, 2022
I liked this book. It is one of few books I have read from a Japanese prospective of WW11. The only thing that was yucky about it was the woman in the relationship was 21 and the boy was 17. Their ages could have 100% been left out.
Profile Image for Amanda.
994 reviews2 followers
December 6, 2017
This book takes place during WWII, but it encompasses a Japanese girl and a German American boy who are put into an American internment camp. There is a third person in the love triangle, a Jewish boy whose family escapes to Shanghai. I enjoy new perspectives on historic events, and learning about what life was like for those ostracized during the War, even while living in America, was interesting.

The book was a little juvenile in parts, then very graphic in others. It had exciting parts, but more slow, than fast, which is why it was given 4 stars. I enjoyed the book for the most part. It was a little long.
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