26th January 2012, Fig Tree
144 pages, Hardback
Themes: lies, deceit, fear, travel by sea, death, disease, children, remaining steadfast, not making a fuss, inner strength, resilience, rape (brief mention), loveless marriage, overworked, understanding little English, deportation, culture lost, World War 2, prejudice, persecution, moderate peril, lots of tissues needed.
Summary from Penguin
In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the women's extraordinary lives from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women in their homes; to their struggles to master a new language and anew culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
This may be a small read but it has had a large impact on me. I needed a tissue from the start - what these women endure for the most part by drawing on their Japanese cultural heritage is phenomenal. Once their dreams are dashed they soon learn how to survive. The way each chapter was written made it sound as if all the women had gathered together and were telling their stories directly to me. This 10/10 book will make you realise just how fortunate you are not to fear going to sleep or worry about disappearing family.
Find out more about Julie on her website.
For another heart wrenching tale about a young girl put in a life which was built on illusion, try The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim