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White Chrysanthemum
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March 2019: Debut > [Horizons] White Chrysanthemum - Mary Lynn Bracht - 4 stars

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Nikki | 661 comments I’m a bit ambivalent about this book.

On the one hand, it’s beautifully written, and I liked the way it’s structured as the story of two sisters who were impacted by a turbulent period in Korean history in different ways. The book tells a powerful story about a horrifying historical episode that deserves to be acknowledged. I’d heard a little about the Japanese army's abuse of ‘comfort women’ in WWII, but this added significantly to my understanding. I was also impressed by the inclusion of the Jeju uprising and massacre, which I had not previously heard of, and the even-handedness of Emi’s statement that wartime atrocities are not confined to one side, and “all those who survive have been wronged”. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the culture of the haenyeo, the proudly independent ‘women of the sea’ who dive off the shore of Jeju Island.

On the other hand, towards the end of the book the plot appeared to bend in awkward directions, perhaps driven by a desire to produce a more satisfying or ‘redemptive’ narrative. The ending didn’t seem to logically follow from the situations described in all their horror earlier in the book, or be representative of the experiences of the real-life women whose stories inspired the author. (view spoiler)

Overall, I’d personally have preferred a less tidy ending, but I can see that this compromise did work to produce an enjoyable reading experience which also fulfilled the author’s aim of bringing these stories into the light and paying tribute to “all the women of the world who suffered in war and who suffer still”.

I wavered between 3 & 4 stars but in the end I felt that this book was clearly written in a generous spirit and so I rated it in one too...

message 2: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3822 comments I 100% agree with your spoiler. I felt like the author was "deciding history" or rewriting for her own convenience.

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