Rollercoaster Mum: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka - a book review

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka - a book review

I have never reviewed a 'grown-up' book before so this post was a little different for me and I should have done it ages ago but you know how it is! I recently joined the Britmums Book Club and this was my first book to review.

jacket image for The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka - large version

As soon as I saw the title I was intrigued as I find the Japanese culture fascinating, it is so different from our own and yet both are very modern cultures. However I digress. This little book is captivating - talking about a piece of history that I was totally unaware of - that of the Japanese in America between the two World Wars. I had never even realised that there was a Japanese community in America at that time.

It is unusual in that it is not told from the perspective of one or two main characters but is written as if it is a group retelling the story and yet you still learn about individual tragedies and triumphs without ever knowing exactly who is talking. The story is incredibly touching and utterly fascinating so much so that I have done some research now into this area of history to learn a little more about it. It is told by what was known as the 'picture brides' who were Japanese women who came to America in the early 1920's to marry Japanese men that were already there. They knew nothing about them apart from having their pictures, which were often old or innacurate, and it is their often very moving stories that we find out about. Many had a very hard life, some not so but many of their stories are brought together in this novel. We follow them until the Second World War breaks out and they are removed to internment camps in case they are enemy spies. The book ends with the last chapter told by the Americans who lived in the same towns and communities. Some readers may want to know what happens to the Japanese in the end but I liked the fact that we were kept guessing to some extent and I think readers are more likely to go and find out about the real history behind the novel with this ending.

This little book definitely punches above it's weight in terms not only of the number of pages but also in that I think this is only the author's second novel. It is based on historical fact but it is a very unique and captivating story. I thoroughly recommend it as a good read.

the Buddha in the Attic, Aspiga, hammock
Snatching a moment in the hammock in the summer to read the Buddha in the Attic

Disclosure: I was sent the book for free as a member of the Britmums Book Club but all views and opinions are my own. 

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