Edward Fenner's Reviews > Forgiveness

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
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it was ok
bookshelves: canadian-history, canadian-author, non-fiction, nonfiction, memoir-bio

Whoever edited this book deserves a demotion or a dismissal. The prose style is mostly fine and often quite wonderful but it is also quite inconsistent with some very abrupt and oddly-placed sentences. And it reads a bit rough in places. I did enjoy Sakamoto's attention to detail in the WWII-era stories. I cared for those people and felt for them. There were many injustices all around but I felt there were far too many leaps and gaps in the narrative. The vignettes were fine but their arrangement could have been much better to weave a better, more coherent narrative. The editor failed on that front. Similarly, I didn't much care about the people in the latter portion of the book. The connections between the people and timelines was almost incidental. There is a distinct absence of threads between characters and timelines. Other characters we come to know and care for early on are all but abandoned. We needed more stories here.

However, where this book really got under my skin was in its shoddy editing. I'm an editor and a typo here or there is bad enough (such as the "Unties States") but over and over again Sakamoto gets historical facts wrong, badly wrong, which a good editor should have caught and fixed. For example, he talks about taking a boat from Pictou, PEI. Impossible, Pictou is in Nova Scotia. He talks about Japan restricting the number of passports issued to Canada. That's not how passports work. I think he's talking about visas. In a scene in post-war BC, he talks of nationalistic hysteria by people wrapping themselves up in the "Canadian flag" which is impossible, the Canadian flag did not exist until 1965. And, he gets facts wrong - basic, common facts - of the one of the two atomic bombings of Japan. He states Nagasaki got hit at 3 o'clock in the morning when, in fact, it was hit second just after 8 o'clock in the morning. How in hell can you get that so wrong? How could that not be corrected? It's an important point of historical accuracy.

While some readers may not care over these details, it left me wondering what else did Sakamoto get wrong about the book? Was he careless? Was he writing creative fiction or alternate history? I thought this was supposed to be a true story. I started to doubt everything he wrote and that is absolutely the wrong thing a writer of a historic memoir wants to instill in the reader. In the end, I was vastly disappointed. This should have been so much better and fuller.

I read this as part of the CBC Canada Reads 2018 longlist.
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Reading Progress

January 19, 2018 – Started Reading
January 19, 2018 – Shelved
January 25, 2018 – Shelved as: canadian-history
January 25, 2018 – Shelved as: canadian-author
January 25, 2018 – Shelved as: non-fiction
January 25, 2018 – Shelved as: nonfiction
January 25, 2018 – Shelved as: memoir-bio
January 25, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Linda Saunders I just began to read “Forgiveness “ and was baffled by young Ralph’s journey on a ferry from The Magdalen Island to Pictou, PEI. I am a retired school teacher and was disappointed that the error had not been identified and corrected before publishing. I expect better from a selection that is chosen for Canada Reads. Unfortunately, I suspect it will also... leave me wondering... as I read on.


Edward Fenner I look forward to your update, Linda.


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