Andy's Reviews > Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
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's review
Feb 26, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: prize-winners, 2011
Read from February 22 to 27, 2011 — I own a copy

I picked this up back in the UK recently during a charity shop trawl. I thought I remembered it coming out and looking interesting but then realised it was released in 1995 making that unlikely. I guess I've seen it a lot in second hand stores (which is in no way a reflection of quality).

The story is wrapped around the trial of a Japanese-American man accused of killing a fellow fisherman and islander in Washington state. We get court room scenes, back story from a handful of the main characters, a simple ending and a whole lot of language inbetween.

Prejudice and the consequences of WW2 for the average American pervade and we see the damage to the mind and body created. Evoking and recreating the days (and later, years) following Pearl Harbour it paints a bleak and paranoid time as neighbours (particularly those who look different) become potential enemies. The Japanese community is portrayed as humble, proud and long suffering. The 'true blood' Americans (most of whom aren't particularly true in blood in the book) fare less well. Through all of this four main characters start to become entwinned. Kind of.

It's a slow burn and you know that you've read a 'proper' book when you've finished even though the central mystery is easily resolved with no great imagination (a decent police investigation should have solved things pretty easily at the begining) because of all the words. There are loads of them describing everything. When you strip away the rather flowery language not much really happens of any consequence or interest. There's just a lot of narrative. Actually, there are many times the book reminded me of The Shipping News: the Island setting, people living off the land in a harsh and relentless environment etc. except the language in that book was electrifying and sharply defined.

It's not bad and many people will like this flowery style, it's reasonably quick to read but I just found it light on depth.

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02/19/2016 marked as: read

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