Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, "When the Emperor Was Divine" is the critically acclaimed debut novel by bestselling writer Julie Otsuka - author of "The Buddha in the Attic" - in which she explores the lives of Japanese immigrants living in America during the Second World War. It is four months after Pearl Harbour and overnight signs ...
Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, "When the Emperor Was Divine" is the critically acclaimed debut novel by bestselling writer Julie Otsuka - author of "The Buddha in the Attic" - in which she explores the lives of Japanese immigrants living in America during the Second World War. It is four months after Pearl Harbour and overnight signs appear all over the United States instructing Japanese Americans to report to internment camps for the duration of the war. For one family it proves to be a nightmare of oppression and alienation. Explored from varying points of view - the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train journey; the son in the desert encampment; the family's return home; and the bitter release of their father after four years in captivity - it tells of an incarceration that will alter their lives for ever. Based on a true story, Julie Otsuka's powerful, deeply humane novel tells of an unjustly forgotten episode in America's wartime history. "Honest and gloriously written, will haunt you long after you've turned the final page. Brilliant". ("Elle"). "An intense jewel of a book written with clarity and beauty". ("Marie Claire"). "Vindicates the suffering of the Japanese in America...a blistering first novel". ("The Times Literary Supplement"). "A compelling, powerful portrait of a terrible endurance. Terrific". ("The Times"). Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel "When the Emperor Was Divine", and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Her second novel, "The Buddha in the Attic", was nominated for the 2011 National Book Award. She lives in New York City.
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Very stark and removed and I assume that was the intention of the author. I think the starkness serves a large purpose for the story. Many books spend time on character development and story line (not a bad thing), this one doesn't. By omitting these I think the author sets the reader up to imagine so much more than an author can supply and to ask themselves "What if this happened to me?"
Jan 23, 2008
gorgeous and sad
This is a fantastic depiction of a subject that hasn't been written about nearly enough in contemporary American literature. A family of unknown name, but of Japanese origin, is the example of a common tale. People told to leave their homes to live a life in the desert of Utah. Declared enemies of the state, and told to show their loyalty to the US by allowing themselves to be locked up for years.
The only character given a name is a presumably white girl who dares to write letters to the unnamed boy.
The book is simple, beautiful, and very successfully makes its point.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-08-26 This heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental debut describes in poetic detail the travails of a Japanese family living in an internment camp during World War II, raising the specter of wartime injustice in bone-chilling fashion. After a woman whose husband was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy sees notices posted around her neighborhood in Berkeley instructing Japanese residents to evacuate, she moves with her son and daughter to an internment camp, abruptly severing her ties with her community. The next three years are spent in filthy, cramped and impersonal lodgings as the family is shuttled from one camp to another. They return to Berkeley after the war to a home that has been ravaged by vandals; it takes time for them to adjust to life outside the camps and to come to terms with the hostility they face. When the children's father re-enters the book, he is more of a symbol than a character, reduced to a husk by interrogation and abuse. The novel never strays into melodrama-Otsuka describes the family's everyday life in Berkeley and the pitiful objects that define their world in the camp with admirable restraint and modesty. Events are viewed from numerous characters' points of view, and the different perspectives are defined by distinctive, lyrically simple observations. The novel's honesty and matter-of-fact tone in the face of inconceivable injustice are the source of its power. Anger only comes to the fore during the last segment, when the father is allowed to tell his story-but even here, Otsuka keeps rage neatly bound up, luminous beneath the dazzling surface of her novel. (Sept.) Forecast: Reader interest in the Japanese-American experience was proved by the success of Snow Falling on Cedars. Otsuka's pared-down narrative may have a more limited appeal, but can safely be recommended to Guterson fans. Five-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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