am 12. September 2011
The idea for the setting and construction of this novel is good: We hear the story of the Japanese internment camps during WWII, told from the perspective of Henry. He is a teenage boy in one of the narrative strands, and a 56 year old widower in the other, set in 1986. Interestingly, he is of Chinese American origin and this makes his relationship to his Japanese American friend, little Keiko, more conflicted, as his father hates Japan for its invasion of China.
There are some beautiful ideas: the suitcases left behind by those who had to go to the camp, their discovery some 40 years later, and sometimes the relationship between Henry and Keiko can be very endearing.
Yet there are also many flaws to this novel. First of all, there are some historical imprecisions. Henry's son is a member of an online support group in 1986? Of course, the internet existed back then, but if people used it this was something special that would have been explained at the time and the author should have done so to make the narrative feel more real. And why is a 56-year-old an "old man" in this novel?
While these mistakes should have been edited out, they are basically minor. What I find more bothering is that there is no real difference between Henry as a boy and Henry as a grown up: He speaks with the same voice. Unfortunately, he is pretty humorless in both periods of his life. While this maybe slightly more credible for him as a 56 year old, he just does not feel like a 13 year old boy. This is one instance of the sterility I detect in this novel which does not really allow me to identify with the story.
So in the end, the novel just did not do much for me. I was trying to read on but only made it to half of it - so I may be doing it injustice. However, I am deeply convinced that a novel should have picked up its pace and presented its good sides after some 100 pages or so.
This novel is probably a good read if you want to learn more about the Japanese internment camps. Snow Falling on Cedars by Guterson is another choice for this topic of the US's policies towards its citizens of Japanese origin, as is Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. I found both much more readable.
am 6. Juni 2011
This is the story of a Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl during World War II, at a time when Japanese immigrants were considered the enemy in America and people of Japanese origin were being interned in 'war relocation camps'. The plot is a little predictable (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy searches for girl...), but the book is beautifully written and the historical perspective is very interesting. Well worth reading!
am 1. August 2011
This book gave me a closer look to American history, to Chinese culture and manifold questions of multi cultural life. I loved it because I began to see the world through that Chinese boy's eyes who shows that once established cultural habitude is undergoing changes day after day, thanks to the young generation who will be able to build bridges between people, between generations and between cultures and to bring life forward to tolerance and peace.