Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review: "When the Emperor Was Divine"

Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor Was Divine (Anchor Books, 2002) is a slim but powerful story of one of the darkest periods in American history: the relocation of Japanese-Americans during the opening years of WWII. The narrative style is somewhat distant (and the perspective varies from chapter to chapter, eventually encompassing five different viewpoints), which lends an air of ambiguity to the story, but also, I found, brought me closer to the characters than a different structure might have done.

The language is spare and simple, but the message comes through loud and clear. A truly remarkable and notable first novel, showing how careful attention to small details can bring a family and a horrible experience to life.

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