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Snow Falling on Cedars Turtleback – 1 Jun 1995
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|Turtleback, 1 Jun 1995||
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"Haunting. . . . A whodunit complete with courtroom maneuvering and surprising turns of evidence and at the same time a mystery, something altogether richer and deeper." -- Los Angeles Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A beautiful new limited edition paperback of Snow Falling on Cedars, published as part of the Bloomsbury Modern Classics list --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The story is told from the point of view of several characters, as the trial progresses and each character either takes the stand or watches from the gallery, they tell their story. The shifting of focus onto each character really works, the timeline shifts but it's easy to follow and with each new exposition you learn something new and your opinion changes.
I had no idea that Japanese people were rounded up in America during the 2nd World War and put into camps. I guess a similar thing happened in the UK, but I've never heard of it. This was contrasted by people of German descent who were left alone, why was this? I can only guess that the Japanese attack on Hawaii made them the enemy of the USA more than the Germans. Or was it because the Japanese looked so different? I found the history of how the war affected different people in different way fascinating and how stereotypes and racism were hard to avoid.
The island is central to this book, the way it isolates the action makes everything seem larger but the pace slower. I even looked up on a map where this island was, it's not real but is probably based on San Juan Island between Seattle and Victoria (Anacortes is a real place and that was the closest town on the mainland, so I think my investigative skills are OK).
It's really well written, the characters are very real and it's easy to get sucked into the did-he-do-it or didn't-he?
Though already aware of how the Japanese were treated during the war, I hadn't really thought about those people who were native Germans or Italians who were not scapegoated , plucked from their homes and incarcerated. Appearance must have had some persuasive power in deciding their place in a country at war. They could be read by looking at them. The Japanese could not.
Could go on and on about the structure of the book, the doomed relations between the damaged Ishmael and hisadred Hatsue, the contrasting mothers, the so different lawyers and the island itself as a microcosm of greater world. I enjoyed it on this my third reading and will probably read it again
The novel deals with 2 great themes – the consequences of war and personal redemption. The central characters were at school together. Three went off to war. Ismael CHAMBERS loses an arm and is consumed with guilt as the only survivor of his platoon. He also carries bitterness after being rejected by Hatsue IMADA, a beautiful Japanese American girl. Kabuo MIYAMOTO enlisted in the Marines and cannot come to terms with killing Japanese soldiers in the Pacific. He married IMADA after the war and, so, is hated by CHAMBERS. Carl HEINE, a fisherman, returns a hero but will not talk about the war.
As the Japanese Americans return to the island after internment, they find their homes, jobs and place in the community changed. Carl HEINE’s mother reneges on a pre-war promise to sell farming land to the MIYAMOTO family. HEINE is murdered whilst out fishing. MIYAMOTO is charged with the murder. This sets the scene.
The narrative is a drive to the redemption of Ismael CHAMBERS. The author sets his protagonist squarely in the context of classic American literature. After the war CHAMBERS returns to school and studies Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlet Letter. He identifies with Ismael in MB but dislikes Captain Ahab. Thus Guterson establishes the central thread of the book - both Ishmaels being on a journey to redemption and the acceptance of self. Ismael in MB (we are never told his surname) is the sole survivor at the demise of the Pequod. Indeed, Captain Ahab is missing a leg and another character, Capt. Boomer, is missing an arm. The multi racial crew of the Pequod compares with the multi racial population of San Piedro.
Guterson has written a stunning novel that succeeds on all levels. A review on the back of the book is spot on in comparing him with Capote, Miller, Harper Lee and Grisham. A wonderful journey to redemption, understanding, tolerance and justice. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. 5 stars.
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