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The Buddha in the Attic [Hardcover]

Julie Otsuka
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Jan 2012

Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, the follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine was shortlisted for the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and winner of the Pen Faulkner Award for Fiction 2012.

Between the first and second world wars a group of young, non-English-speaking Japanese women travelled by boat to America. They were picture brides, clutching photos of husbands-to-be whom they had yet to meet. Julie Otsuka tells their extraordinary, heartbreaking story in this spellbinding and poetic account of strangers lost and alone in a new and deeply foreign land.

'Sweeping, symphonic, empathic . . . subtle, infinitely skilful . . . an exhilarating, compulsive read. Otsuka's haunting, heartbreaking conclusion, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, is faultless' Daily Mail

'A tender, nuanced, empathetic exploration of the sorrows and consolations of a whole generation of women . . . the distaff equivalent of a war memorial' Daily Telegraph

'A haunting and heartbreaking look at the immigrant experience . . . Otsuka's keenly observed prose manages to capture whole histories in a sweep of gorgeous incantatory sentences' Marie Claire

'An understated masterpiece... she conjures up the lost voices of a generation of Japanese American women without losing sight of the distinct experience of each' San Francisco Chronicle

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine, and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic, was nominated for the 2011 National Book Award. She lives in New York City.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fig Tree (26 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905490879
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905490875
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Sweeping, symphonic, empathic . . . subtle, infinitely skilful . . . an exhilarating, compulsive read. Otsuka's haunting, heartbreaking conclusion, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, is faultless (Daily Mail)

Paints a poignant, moving portrait of immigration by deftly weaving together a chorus of voices. Fascinating and tragic in equal measure (Easy Living)

A tender, nuanced, empathetic exploration of the sorrows and consolations of a whole generation of women (Telegraph)

A haunting and heartbreaking look at the immigrant experience . . . Otsuka's keenly observed prose manages to capture whole histories in a sweep of gorgeous incantatory sentences (Marie Claire)

Novels written in the first person plural are rare. It's a narrative device that gives The Buddha in the Attic a deliciously melancholy quality . . . Powerful, lyrical and almost unbearably sad (Psychologies)

Powerfully moving . . . intensely lyrical . . . verges on the edge of poetry (Independent)

The tone is often incantatory, and though the language is direct, unconvoluted, almost without metaphor, its true and very unusual merit lies, I think, in that indefinable quality we call poetry (Ursula Le Guin Guardian)

A kind of collective memoir that squeezes volumes of experience into a small space . . . more than a history lesson because Otsuka compresses the individual emotions into one haunting story (The Times)

Her trick is to sum up a few life story in a few tantalising sentences, moving on to the next at lightning speed. The result is panoramic, each line opening a window on to the world of one woman after another, pinpointing each one's hopes and happiness or misery and pain (Sunday Express)

Intriguing . . . fleeting, singular images pile up and reverberate against each other to strange, memorable effect (Metro)

Spare but resonant, powerful, evocative (The New York Times Book Review)

Spare and stunning . . . Otsuka has created a tableau as intricate as the pen strokes her humble immigrant girls learned to use in letters to loved ones they'd never see again (Oprah Magazine)

A delicate, heartbreaking portrait . . . beautifully rendered . . . Otsuka's prose is precise and rich with imagery. [Readers] will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved. (Publishers Weekly)

An understated masterpiece... she conjures up the lost voices of a generation of Japanese American women without losing sight of the distinct experience of each... The Buddha in the Attic seems destined to endure (San Francisco Chronicle)

This chorus of narrators speaks in a poetry that is both spare and passionate, sure to haunt even the most coldhearted among us (Chicago Tribune)

A stunning feat of empathetic imagination and emotional compression, capturing the experience of thousands of women (Vogue)

A lithe stunner (Elle)

To watch Emperor catching on with teachers and students in vast numbers is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird (The New York Times on When the Emperor was Divine)

Already highly acclaimed in the US, it's a short novel, written with brutality and beauty. The Buddha in the Attic has the rare strength and poignancy that comes from telling an untold story (Word)

About the Author

Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. She is the author of the novel When the Emperor Was Divine, and a recipient of the Asian American Literary Award, the American Library Association Alex Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic, was nominated for the 2011 National Book Award. She lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical and haunting 12 Feb 2012
By A. Non
Format:Hardcover
"The Buddha in the Attic" is a strange novel. There is not one protagonist, or small named group of protagonists, with who the reader can connect. It is written entirely in the first-person plural "we". Occasionally, a named character will appear and stay for a paragraph at most and is never heard from again. We never find out how any individual story ends.

We follow the mostly-nameless group of Japanese mail-order brides through arranged marriages to men who claimed to be bankers with large houses when they were labourers living in one-room shacks, through the chorus of descriptions of their separate wedding-nights, covering hard-work in America, child-birth and rearing children who were ashamed of their heritage and their parents' weathered hands, to the growing suspicion and persecution by their American neighbours as war approaches, which is written about in an eerily-frank matter.

I'm not "giving away" the plot. I wouldn't say there's much of a plot to give.

But, for me, this is not a weakness, because of the sheer quality of the writing. The writing is what makes this book. It is beautiful, lyrical. Reading "The Buddha in the Attic" is like reading long passages of poetry, with each chapter flowing musically into the next, so it's impossible to put down.

And, through this expressive writing, we feel we learn all about the Japanese arranged brides. We learn about their hopes, their motives, their histories, their indiscretions, and their disappointments, even if we never learn their names. Julie Otsuka allows us to walk in their shoes, and to feel with them: their joys, their sorrows, their dreams of a new life, and their determination to make it work even when dissatisfied.

Conclusion: A beautifully haunting book that will stay with me.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC 21 Jan 2012
By Amanda TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This wonderful novel tells the story of a group of young Japanese women, mail order brides shipped over to America in the 1900s to an unforeseen future, and a life and culture so alien to theirs. The journey takes us from the beginning as they commence their long and gruelling boat trip, full of trepidation and hope, and then continues as we learn of their lives as wives, mothers and as labourers.
This is a short book but each and every of the 129 pages is so absorbing and in my opinion beautifully written.
Highly recommend.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare, spare and fascinating 29 Jan 2012
By Emily
Format:Kindle Edition
A beautiful novel, each word is exquisite.
The unusual use of the collective voice is moving and allows the author to create many stories in what is a very short novel. You could read it one sitting.
I found the glimpses of parting from mothers, babies, grown children very touching.
Like the book, the characters seemed delicate, but were strong. The characters seem unquestioning, but through their voices the author makes her point very firmly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving testament 4 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover
This is a beautifully crafted work.Short but deeply moving it reveals hidden histories.The multiple narrative drives the story forward and reveals the human tragedy behind the American Dream.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
There is definately something wrong when an author has to point out over and over again, that you nare reading a novel. In my view this is not a novel. It's just loose phrases on different topics, that have been tied together in to a book. It has no story and I can't say that I enjoyed this at all.

An example of the writing would be: Some of us... Some of us... Some of us... After the first thirty pages with every sentence starting more or less like this, I had had enough. I had to force myself to finish the book.

No doubt these Japanes women, that in truth have lived, suffered a great deal. They came as mail order brides to the West coast of the USA, and let's say the photos of their husbands, were not the men that met them on arrival. They had been tricked. They changed the rice fields of Japan, for hard labour in orchards and farm labourers in the US. Or town life in Japan, for more or less slave labour in the US. Their husbands were not particularly successful and no doubt they ordered their brides, since the white people of America, did not accept them, so this was the only way to get a woman. But this way of telling their story, was not in my taste. She could have made it in to a short history book instead, a short social study about the phenomena and what came of these young girls.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 18 April 2012
Format:Hardcover
This deeply moving book summarizes the stories of thousands of Japanese girls and women sold by their poor families in the early 1900s to marry Japanese working in the US. Many suitors were not as young or successful as they claimed to be: most were farm workers, moving constantly to harvest.

JO cleverly edited a mountain of archival and oral data into chronological chapters: (1)`The sea voyage's opening sentence is "On the boat most of us were virgins". (2)`First night` opens with "Our new husbands took us quickly", (3)`Whites' deals with coping in the USA; (4)`Babies' with mothering while working in the fields or in another capacity, (5)`The children' with more of the same, but with the first generational conflicts emerging.

This makes up over half of this short 129-page book. It is arranged in chapters which read like litanies in hauntingly-repetitious sentences describing individual experience. On page 72, still in chapter 5, the book's focus shifts: "One by one all the old words we had taught them began to disappear from their heads. They forgot the names of the flowers in Japanese. They forgot the names of the colors". And so on.

A few more chapters follow, because the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed the lives of Japanese living along the US West Coast. It began with curfews and travel restrictions. Next came deportations of men, then women and children further inland, to the Rocky Mountain states, to incapacitate the internal enemy to use flashlights to guide Japanese invaders onshore, poison reservoirs, food, or whatever... Of course their fate was not as fatal as in a far bigger campaign in Europe. The Japanese-Americans survived their incarceration. One unanswered question remains: how did they fare once released, trying to reclaim their properties?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars full of life
Beautiful book, full of migrant women's experiences tackling history of loved Japanese community.. War internment.. Division, separation..unknowns- rich , varied,intense
Published 5 days ago by caterina
4.0 out of 5 stars The Buddha in the Attic
A most unusual book written from a totall unusual angle.
Published 18 days ago by Christine Denovan
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning
A must to read, great literature, great information, very sensitively written, brilliant book with deep insights of female history and great contribution to understanding migration... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Christine Leiser
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Constructed History Of Forgotten Immigrants
On opening the book one is immediately struck by the fact that our narrator is not the usual "I" but "we". Read more
Published 27 days ago by JohnBrassey
5.0 out of 5 stars recommend to anyone
This is a beautifully written, dense short novel. It has original voice and it contains a distillation of a wealth of research. Read more
Published 2 months ago by jd
5.0 out of 5 stars The Buddha in the Attic
Absolutely brilliant! I loved this book. The style of Julie Otsuka's writing is quite unique. There was no waffle, just straight and to the point. Read more
Published 2 months ago by susan brodie
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange tale
Almost impossible to believe it was true and these brides were shipped out en masse but it really did happen. Subtle telling of an incredible story.
Published 2 months ago by PatriciaBookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars the buddha in the attic
An interesting read about a subject i knew little about, being the experience of female Japanese migrants to America.Written in a very readable style . Read more
Published 4 months ago by katy evdokiou
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful story, dreadful e book!
I thought this sounded different and I was right. It's a beautifully written book and far from lots of short stories as one reviewer said, it's more the story of all the Japanese... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Laura
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
A subject worthy of more accomplished storytelling. Otsuka uses a repetitive narrative throughout the novel which makes this one of the most tedious books I have ever read. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Julie Anne Nevin
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