Azarin's Reviews > When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
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's review
Jun 22, 2011

it was amazing

After reading Julie Otsuka’s piece in Granta: Aliens I ordered this novel and I have to confess that I had high expectations; I wasn’t disappointed!
It was breathtaking and moving, and I couldn’t admire more her minimalistic way of telling her story...This is a small book, so I read it a few times. Each time going back to read again my favorite parts. The second half of the book is phenomenal.
The story is set in 1942, after the attacks of Pearl Harbor. This is the story of a Japanese family living in Berkeley. The father has been the first one to go and now the rest of the family is sent away to another camp in Utah. I found very interesting that the characters didn’t have a name, almost as if by this choice they represented any Japanese who had shared their story.

But I am going to give the book a solid 4 and 9/10 star ...because of the last chapter (in Father's voice)

Honestly, I think that chapter was unnecessary. The previous chapter had already ended so beautifully. As a reader, I had enjoyed the fact that the narration had skipped any sign of this family's anger against this unfairness. The writing is picturesque, alomst dispassionate, still it carries a heavy weight of emotion by simple details and description of their daily life. I was angry for them. I was angry because the mother took in everything without expressing any frustration. I was angry that she could adapt so well. But I loved Otsuka’s masterful writing for generating all these emotions in her reader without extravaganza!
But the last chapter was different. It had Father's angry tone. But honestly, I didn't need to read it to find out Father's untold emotions, since the story itself had already revealed everything to the reader.

But even that last chapter is written so well. Otsuka is a brilliant writer!
So overall, it was a stunning read and I would recommend it to everyone. I will be looking forward to reading Julie Otsuka’s next novel.

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