There are some nice diving scenes interspersed throughout the narrative for the reader to really get a feel for what living as a haenyeo is like. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. She will find her way home. Although Hana is a daughter of the sea, she suffers under Japanese occupation, where Korean traditions, religion, and even language have been prohibited. Finding hope in the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war and find forgiveness? Korea, 1943. It’s a book that I feel deserves to be read, but it’s not for everyone, and the cover sort of makes it seem like it won’t be that traumatic. But. Culture / Books White Chrysanthemum review – ordeal of Korean ‘comfort women’ explored in … Different voices, both strong, tell the stories of Emi and her sister, Hana, who is kidnapped on a Jeju Island beach one day while protecting her sister from a Japanese soldier. I’m not proud of it either. Following her mother's footsteps into the sea as a haenyeo, one of the famed female divers of beautiful Jeju Island, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Gaby recently posted…Guest Post: Reluctant Courage by Rica Newbery. It shares with exemplars of the form – Primo Levi’s If This is a Man; Rezak Hukanovic’s The Tenth Circle of Hell – a simplicity to the prose that lets the events speak for themselves, though there is at times an awkwardness to Bracht’s style as she tries to put the atrocities into the voices of her characters while failing to resist an authorial tone. While White Chrysanthemum is not for the faint of heart, it is a shattering story that needs to be told. If you thought that was bad, however, you are in for much worse, as Mary Lynn Bracht tells the heartbreaking story of thousands of “comfort women” in her debut novel, White Chrysanthemum. Not the book itself, but I was miserable reading this and all the violence and tragedy that occurred in the pages. It was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever put my eyes on. It is as though they don’t care if she is dead or alive, just that she is physically present so that they can do what they have come to do.”. 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She touches on the importance of family while revealing one of the most devastating war stories in history in excruciating detail. She holds up a hand mirror that fits into her palm, and Hana can’t help but look at her reflection. Pleasant memories of home and the sister she saved are a constant reminder that her plight is bearable – she will survive if only to see them again one day. Until the day Hana witnesses a Japanese soldier threatening her beloved younger sister on shore. Though it’s not the type of book that many would enjoy reading, I don’t think, because of the events it covers. Hana always thought she was lucky to have been named by a clever mother. It sounds good but it’s hard to read something like this, specially when we know it happened. Hana’s time in the brothel is the most powerful and unforgettable of these situations: “They eat a meagre meal, then go to bed to start the day again. Jeju Island, Korea, 1943. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. Hana is forced to wear a plain uniform and packed into a train with hundreds of other girls and women, who have no idea where they are headed. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. When it comes to horrible war crimes, Japan is no white knight. In the mornings and on weekends, she is expected to do chores with the other women. The generational impact of war is seen through a second narrator, Emi, who feels the crippling guilt of survivors and has allowed it to determine her life and relationships. Bracht does not cut corners and provides every shattering detail, breaking the reader along with Hana. Sixteen-year-old Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation, schooled through a foreign tongue that denies her native language and culture. All rights reserved. Aspiring editor & translator. Bracht pulls of this feat seamlessly, offering alternating points of view from Hana and Emi, past and present. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness? While Hana is battered by countless Japanese soldiers, Emi struggles to hold on to the hope that her long lost sister is still alive. Like I mentioned, major trigger warnings for graphic scenes of rape, kidnapping, murder, and beating. In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

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