I was drawn into this book within the first couple of pages, it’s not a long read at only 129 pages so great for a few evenings, weekend away or a flight read. It is so beautifully written, I just did not want to put it down.
The story is written in a really unusual way, the author writes as ‘we’ pretty much all the way through the book, so you don’t get to grasp onto a particular character, very different from anything I’ve read before, but captivating.
The book tells the story of a number of ‘photo brides’ leaving their homes across Japan between the two world wars and heading for a life of uncertainty in the U.S.A., to husbands who they have never met, clasping on to photos of the men they think they will meet at the end of their journeys. Reality and the photos were often poles apart.
I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about this era and of the young women moving from one side of the world to the other, to a totally different culture, dealing with a totally alien language. How scary must that have been? Of course, you also know where history takes Japan and the U.S.A. and that’s in the back of your mind all the way through this book.
We learn about their marriages, the extraordinarily hard lives they lived, the way they were treated by their husbands and the American people, the happy tales, the disappointments and their struggle as mothers.
It’s a short read, as I’ve already said, so I’m not going to dissect it in minute detail, I always prefer for others to read the book themselves anyway.
We’ve all heard about POW camps here in the UK during WWII, my Father-in-law actually worked in one housing Italian nationals. I’d never thought about ‘hostile aliens’ in other countries and how they would be treated. This book has really opened my eyes. It’s great when you just enjoy a book, and are left feeling so enthusiastic about it.
My only disappointment with The Buddha in the Attic, is with the ending – I was left with too many questions. Perhaps that’s the whole point! I want to find out more about this time period in American history now, and where these women ended up.
I’ve also ordered Julia Otsuka’s first novel When the Emperor was Divine – I’m sure I’m in for a good read there too.