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White Chrysanthemum

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  9,201 ratings  ·  1,530 reviews
In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Chouchette Jennifer, Hi, Hana's only way of surviving is to think of her family and home. She imagines she is back home. Just as when she was struggling to remov…moreJennifer, Hi, Hana's only way of surviving is to think of her family and home. She imagines she is back home. Just as when she was struggling to remove the leg from the ox, she is disgusted with what she's doing to the beast so she imagines that it isn't an ox's leg but, "It's--a fish" that's found its way into her net. After catching the "fish" she sees her father filleting the fish. Hana's escapes to her pass images of a fish to enable her to peel the skin from the flesh so she can eat and with the hide provide a shoe for her torn feet. (less)

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Average rating 4.32  · 
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Angela M
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing

This was not an easy book to read, yet I’m glad that I did. It’s a beautifully written tribute to Korean women who were taken from their homes during the Japanese occupation and forced to be “comfort women”, an inconceivably gentle phrase for the sex slaves they were made to be . It’s also a tribute and a remembrance as the author points out in her note, to all women around the world subjected to rape during wartime. These horrific events of barbaric treatment, this story of what happened to the
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love when a story takes me to a place I've never heard of, especially an exotic location in the South Korean sea. But in 1943, that beauty was shadowed by the horrid history of war. Taking hundreds of thousands of lives - not just soldiers, but women who were kidnapped and offered up to soldiers to be 'comfort women': to be raped, humiliated and often murdered all in the name of supporting the Japanese war efforts.

This story starts on Jeju island which sits on the map just south of Korea. It's
Diane S ☔
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book with very hard to read subject matter. It is a beautiful book and an ugly book,and a book based on historical truisms. It is also about historical events of which I had no knowledge.

Hana comes from a long line of strong women who are called haenyo, they dive for a living, capturing the bottom feeders of sea creatures, which will be sold at the market. Emi, her younger sister, still not a strong enough swimmer, stays on shore to guard the catch. The Japanese are the occupiers of So
Lucy Langford
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Look for your sister after each dive. Never Forget. If you see her, you are safe.

Korea, 1943. Both Hana and Emi have lived their entire lives under Japanese occupation; their Korean names, literature and cultural practices are repressed and made illegal. Living on Jeju Island, Hana is a Haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. Both her and her mother, as well as some other women, enjoy an independence that so few other Koreans can enjoy. Emi is too young and so has to wait on the shore while s
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A deeply moving and beautifully written historical fiction novel of human resilience and enduring love of sisters, a story about the Korean ‘comfort women’ prostituted by Japanese soldiers in World War II and two sisters separated as young girls but the bond of sisters remains strong and they never strop thinking about each other..

This was an eye opening and haunting debut novel by Mary Lynn Brecht and while fictional it is based on real life events that are harrowing and disturbing in places to
This book was a fictional tale about an important real-life historical topic, so I really wanted to love this book, but I only ended up sort of liking it. When a book tackles such a horrifying time in history-when Korean women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military as 'comfort women'-it's hard to balance the need for both captivating storytelling and historical accuracy.

I personally really struggled to emotionally connect with this book despite it's desperately u
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Powerfully heartbreaking. I am always so appreciative of authors that bring remarkable stories like this to the forefront. How many stories like Hanna’s exist? ‘The list of women suffering wartime rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, commemorate the atrocities against them in museums, and remember the women and girls we lost by erecting monuments in their honor, like the Statue of Peace.’ These events can not be covered up... knowle ...more
Sometimes, old wounds need to be reopened to let them properly heal

The white chrysanthemum – in Korea, the flower of the funeral, the flower of death. This story tells of death – perhaps not always death of the body; the spirit can die too.

This book tells of the ‘comfort women’, women stolen from Korea to satisfy the sexual needs of the Japanese invaders. Somehow the Japanese think that sexually satisfied men will make better warriors.

This book had me captivated from sentence 1. Historical ficti
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-clubs

This well done historical fiction covers two sisters in Korea, starting during WWII and going right through 2011. While I was familiar with comfort women, what was less known by me was the history of Korea between WWII and the Korean War. I had no idea of the brutality of the South Korean government.

Hana is the older sister. A haenyeo, or sea diver, she is taken off the beach by a Japanese corporal and sent to a brothel in China. Her younger sister, Emi escaped notice that day. Emi’s story is t
Karen R
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Subject matter in this novel was heartbreaking to read but paints a legitimate picture of the suffering of Koreans by the Japanese during WWII and post-war. The story alternatively told told from Hana and Emi’s perspectives, sisters who were ripped apart from one another at a young age is powerful. Hana’s story begins in 1943 as a young girl taken by Japanese soldiers to be used as a sex slave; Emi’s story in 2011, as an older woman carrying the guilt of Hana’s disappearance and trying to come t ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Instead she swallowed her emotions, until she was able to continue to exist."

This book reminded me why historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's. I learned so much about the Korean war and Korean traditions. I also knew nothing about haenyeo, women of the sea, a community of close-knitted female divers and matriarchs.

The author is an amazing writer, she tackles the very upsetting topic of comfort women - women/girls abducted to be sexual slaves to the Japanese army - with empathy and di
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
I have read many, many books about WWII but this is a part of that history that was new for me. Ms. Bracht has composed a novel about the suffering of the Koreans during WWII and it is well researched, well written but entirely heartbreaking.

The story is about two sisters, Hana and Emiko who live on an island, Jeju, off of the coast of Korea.
The novel opens beautifully with Hana being induced as a “Haenyeo”, a woman who dives expertly to sustain her family. It is a difficult but peaceful life a
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult book to read but an important one. It tells the story of the “comfort women”, who the Japanese kidnapped and held as sex slaves to service their soldiers during WWII. “Comfort women” is an offensive misnomer, putting a benign label on the constant sexual and physical abuse of these women.

It is told through 2 points of view:
Hana is a 16 year old haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. One day in 1943, she is approached by a Japanese soldier, and to protect her younger sister, she
Gumble's Yard
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
In March 2016 I travelled to Seoul to see Pyeonghwabi (the Statute of Peace) … It was a sort of pilgrimage for me to journey half way across the world to set my eyes on the symbol representing, for me, wartime rape not only of Korean women and girls, but of all women and girls the world over: Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Myanmar, Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palenstine and more. The list of women suffering war time rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s war
Sonja Arlow
Comfort women.

Isn’t that a nice phrase that conjures up the image of a kind mother figure hugging away your sorrow?

The reality is anything but comforting. It is estimated that between 50 and 200 THOUSAND Korean women and girls were stolen/taken as sexual slaves during Japan’s colonisation of Korea. Forced every day to be raped again and again by soldiers so these same soldiers can have some “comfort” before or after a battle.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Hana and Emi. They come from a
Stephanie Anze
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"You are her protector now, Hana."
"Can I rely on you?" her mother asked, her voice stern.
"Yes, Mother, I will keep her safe. I promise"
"A promise is forever, Hana. Never forget."

Such is the conversation that happens between Hana and her mother when Emiko (her liitle sister) is born and one that Hana honors. Korea is under Japananese rule. Hana and her mother are haenyo divers, earning their living by diving on Jeju Island and selling their catch. Emi, stays on the shore while Hana and her mother
Roman Clodia
The true story of Korean 'comfort women' i.e. sex slaves abducted by the Japanese army for the 'servicing' of troops, undoubtedly deserves to be told but this isn't a particularly accomplished or sophisticated novel. In fact, so keen is it to tell a story, that Hana, a 16 year old girl enslaved by a Japanese military officer, spends more time on the run in Manchuria and Mongolia than in the brothel in which she's placed.

Hana's story is interspersed with that of Emi in the present, her younger s
RoseMary Achey
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking tale of two sisters beginning in 1943 as one of the sisters is kidnapped by a Japanese solider in occupied Korea. Forced into sexual slavery she served as a Comfort Woman to members of the Japanese military. The sister left behind spends the remainder of her life looking for her stolen sibling.

The writing is good, the story well researched but some passages will be tough for mild mannered book clubbers. An important part of history that many of us are unaware and I thank the aut
Karen Kay
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Korea, 1943. Hana, age 16 has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. South Korea, 2011. Emi, her now elderly sister.

As the story progresses, we understand the heart-breaking ordeals each of the sisters endured but they never forgot the love they had for each other.

Very good book. This is the first book I've read where I was equally interested and invested in both timelines.

Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2018
White Chrysanthemum is such an incredibly sad and difficult book to read. It is also unforgettable and hard to put down when one has begun to read. Now it's been a while since I finished the book, but I remember how gripping the book was and how much I learned about Korea during and after World War II.

I found that the book's story, the sisters' fates touched my soul. Hana being captured by Japanese soldiers and Emi who had to live with the feeling of guilt seeing her sister sacrifice herself for
Paul Fulcher
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I am a haenyeo. Like my mother, and her mother before her, like my sister will be one day, her daughters too - I was never anything but a woman of the sea. Neither you nor any man can make me less than that.

The beautiful 제주도 (Jeju Island) is perhaps my favourite holiday resort, and one I visit annually (more so I suspect in future as my in-laws are building a hotel there), so it was lovely to read a book set there, particularly one focusing on the unique 해녀 (haenyeo), the diving women of the i
Connie G
Although it is well-written, parts of "White Chrysanthemum" are difficult to read because of its troubling subject matter. The book is about a young Korean woman who was kidnapped by soldiers during the Japanese occupation in 1943, and forced to work as a "comfort woman". Hana was only sixteen-years-old, working as a free diver called a "haenyeo", while her younger sister was on the sandy shore guarding the catch. When a Japanese soldier comes to the secluded beach, Hana distracts him so he does ...more
Blodeuedd Finland
I get the story she wanted to tell, and yes it was good, but the rest was barely ok.

Hana gets taken by the Japanese to become a Comfort woman, which is a sex slave. But I never truly had time to connect and every time I felt her plight I was taken away by another POV. Not that I wanted to dwell in the horror of the brothel, but honestly, she was hardly there that long it seemed. If you really wanted to tell a story, make it tough and hard to read.

Then there was the omg so boring POV of her siste
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should come with a warning sign that says “stock up on tissue boxes before reading.”

I would definitely place White Chrysanthemum on a book list for tear-jerkers. It was just so sad. I had to pause a few times, take a breather because I just couldn’t endure the sufferings.

A historical fiction, set in Korea 1943 during the WW2, two sisters, Hana and Emi were separated when Hana was taken by the Japanese army. Told alternatively between the sisters, it was really hard for me to choose whi
Emily May
Feb 22, 2018 marked it as dnf
Putting this one aside. The third person distant narrative plus lots of tell and very little show is making this read like a textbook. Pachinko is still my number one rec for Korean historical fiction. ...more
Author Mary Lynn Bracht is an American of Korean descent. While visiting her mother’s village in Korea, she learned the stories of the “comfort women”. These girls and young women were kidnapped and forced into brothels which served the Japanese military during World War II.

Based on the accounts of some of the surviving women, Bracht began to research this topic. Her beautifully written debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Hana and Emi, who are separated when Hana is taken away by Japanes
“White Chrysanthemum” opens the book, figuratively, on the dark history of Japanese soldiers who systematically captured and removed Korean (and other enemy) young women to become “comfort women”, or sex slaves during times of political conflict starting as early as 1931. Emperor Hirohito encouraged the “release” of the “life force” that would supposedly carry the Japanese forces to win in war.

This novel is not a complicated one to read, as it moves between 1943 and the capture of Hana who is e
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2018
When I worked at a small Midwestern liberal arts college, I made the acquaintance of a student whose Korean heritage fed her passion for the halmonis or “grandmothers” and encouraged her to make an extended visit to South Korea and participate in a Wednesday Demonstration. Her interest became mine, albeit less passionately, but I did spend time via the Internet, researching the history of these women, the horrors and injustices inflicted on them, and the decades of silence that followed. It comp ...more
Robert Sheard
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, January has been redeemed with this read. Such a heart-breaking, compelling story about the "comfort women" from Korea who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. I believe this is Bracht's debut, and it's absorbing and gut-wrenching.
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read book!!! Wow

During the Japanese occupation in Korea there is believed to have been 50000 to 200000 women and girls stolen by the Japanese military into sexual slavery. There were referred to as comfort women. Many die in foreign lands and there are still comfort women alive to this day that are bringing attention to the wrongs that were done to them by the Japanese. The Japanese try to sweep this act under the rug. This is a story of a young girl Hana who was taken from her ho
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An American author of Korean descent living in London, Mary grew up in a large ex-pat community of women who came of age in postwar South Korea. In 2002, she visited her mother’s childhood village, and it was during this trip she first learned of the “comfort women.” Her debut novel, White Chrysanthemum, was published in January 2018 by Chatto & Windus Books and Putnam Books. She is represented by ...more

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The young adult genre continues to lead literature in embracing new voices, championing all types of diversity, and, well, just really app...
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“... she knows all too well anything can happen in the blink of an eye.” 0 likes
“On Hana’s island, diving is women’s work. Their bodies suit the cold depths of the ocean better than men’s. They can hold their breath longer, swim deeper, and keep their body temperature warmer, so for centuries, Jeju women have enjoyed a rare independence.” 0 likes
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