Wednesday, 18 July 2018

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht - #BookReview

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

Hana and her little sister, Emi, are part of an island community of haenyeo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea.

One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day's catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore.

So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switching between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

This is one of the best books I have ever read; praise which I do not give lightly. Rarely has a book simultaneously shocked, affected and impressed me as this one has. In fact, I borrowed this from the library and having read it I have pre-ordered a copy of the paperback from a book retailer, which is due to be released on the 30th of August, here in the UK, as I am certain that I will want to re-read this book.

I have read some excellent debut novels this year and I am confident in saying that this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. The writing is beautiful and tells the story of the little known history of Korea's women during the Japanese invasion of Korea during World War Two. Ms. Bract is to be applauded for bringing this to the attention of modern readers. I, for one, had no knowledge of this devastating aspect of twentieth-century history.

If ever fictional characters deserve to be fallen in love with, it is Hana and Emi. The author portrays her characters so fully that I really felt that I knew them and cried for the horrors that they were forced to endure. It is hard to leave this book behind.

The authors research has been thorough and she conveys this information with intelligence and understanding. By the time I had finished this book I was deeply affected and inspired by the bravery and strength of the women being portrayed and, therefore, their real life counterparts.

Bravo, to Ms. Bract for bringing this horrendous period of history to the fore and I strongly recommend this book to you all.

ISBN: 978 1784741440

Publisher: Chatto and Windus

About the Author:

Mary Lynn Bracht is an American author of Korean descent who now lives in London. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London.

She grew up in a large ex-pat community of women who came of age in post-war South Korea. In 2002 Bracht visited her mother's childhood village, and it was during this trip she first learned of the 'comfort women' captured and set up in brothels for the Japanese military.

White Chrysanthemum is her first novel.

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