A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – A graceful, cold, Japanese tale,with a raw core
The ebb and flow of this book is extremely graceful. The words move through the pages like an old Japanese play and the spoken language drifts you gently to Nagasaki. A stranger knocks on the door of Amaterasu’s home and says he is her Grandson, thought dead. It is here, we flashback to the morning of Pikadon, where we follow the lives of three generations of the same family as they battle the bomb, forbidden love, secrets and duty.
The attention to cultural detail in this book is astounding, not just ‘the Japanese culture and customs,’ but the etiquette and culture of 1945. I particularly liked the explanation of Japanese phrases which were at the beginning of each chapter which certainly opened my eyes to a culture steeped in gods and history. A very cold, hard culture in many ways and strikingly beautiful, modest and charming in others.
In amongst this beauty and grace is Pikadon. An harrowing event, which breeds an ugly cancer, touching every character in the book. This part is real, it happened and families still bear the scars of that history today. I found this short animation. It’s old, grainy and miserable, but worth a moment of your time.
If you love Japan, this book is for you. If you love complex, layered stories then this book is also for you.
A modest 3 out of 5 stars for me
Book given for review courtesy of Random House Australia and NetGalley
The Book Jacket
‘What and how much should I admit to myself, and to others? Should I begin with this acknowledgement: my daughter Yuko might be alive today if I had loved her in a different way?’
When a badly scarred man knocks on the door of Amaterasu Takahashi’s retirement home and says that he is her grandson, she doesn’t believe him.
But if you’ve become adept at lying, can you tell when someone is speaking the truth?Amaterasu knows her grandson and her daughter died the day the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki; she searched for them amongst the ruins of her devastated city and has spent years burying her memories of that brutal summer. So this man is either a miracle or a cruel trick.
The stranger forces Amaterasu to revisit her past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance, the fierceness of a mother’s love. For years she has held on to the idea that she did what she had to do to protect her family… but now nothing seems so certain.
We can’t rewrite history, but can we create a new future?
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