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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 May 2014
I really liked this book, not at all what I was expecting, this book kept me guessing the whole way through, proper on-the-edge-of-my-seat stuff.

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?
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on 27 April 2014
Have read this at least three times now. This time it was the effect of war on islanders that made a strong impression , the silence that enclosed them that paralleled the reticence that was an essential part ot the character of the Japanese families. There is a mother discussion that explains their attitude towards their behaivours,. their way of looking at the world and the huge gap that separates them from the ego driven Americans. Even in the dock, the jurors cannot read the peron being triedwhose impssive dignity is is integral to his demeanor in this terrible position he finds himself. One feels that this would have been maintained even if death was his punishment.
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
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on 12 November 2015
Recommended for every reader but especially for one requiring a wonderful time spanning story of the late thirties forties and fifties,with unsurpassed descriptions of characters and their personal and race relationships.All set in the north western coast of the USA........AND with a murder mystery thrown in to boot. If you read only one longish novel...make it this one.
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on 6 September 2013
I felt this did not live up to its reputation. Although the plot and the characters were engaging I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by the description of the environment. Some of this seemed "over the top" and unnecessarily fancy - it therefore struck me as unnatural.
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on 7 June 2017
Great book , read as a book club choice and enjoyed by all!
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on 20 April 2017
Not as good as hoped
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on 20 February 2015
Excellent read,
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on 8 February 2016
This novel operates on many levels that the author weaves together eloquently and with confidence. A murder mystery, a coming of age drama, a love story, an examination of prejudice, racism and national identity, pride, betrayal, the enduring effects of war and a courtroom drama. The setting is 1954 on San Piedro, a fictional pacific island off the coast of Washington state. An insulated microcosm of post war America. The island economy is fishing, agriculture and summer tourism. The inhabitants are white, of European descent and non-white Japanese Americans who work the land (share croppers). Summer holidaymakers from Seattle are tolerated. The flora, weather and rugged geography of the island dictate, to a great degree, the events in the novel.

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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on 16 November 2016
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VINE VOICEon 9 September 2010
I have read this book a number of times now and, despite knowing the ending, never get tired of it.

Set on a small US fishing Island off Seattle it deals with a mixed community containing a number of japanese settlers. The period is the Second World War and the aftermath.

Prior to the war the community is fairly settled with it's staple outputs of logging, strawberry farming (using lots of immigrant japanese labour) and fishing. It features the parallel lives of two boys who grew up on the Island - Carl Heine a European Immigrant and Kabuo Miyamoto a Japanese Immigrant. Both move away to fight during the war (for the US) and both return damaged to an extent. The book starts as Carl Heine's body is discovered (I am not giving anything away here, this is revealed on page one) and tracks back over time to draw a picture of the circumstances running up to his death.

The author, David Guterson, does a lovely job of weaving a storyline of different lives and themes such as love, betrayal, war, racial hatred and upheaval set against a charming small island/town mentality. For example the descriptive passages dealing with the loneliness of fishing at night are simply excellent and this holds true throughout the book.

It is also a book that in many ways defys genre. I think pretty much anyone who enjoys a good book will like it. From the moment it starts it welcomes you in and pulls you through the trials and tribulations of the main charactors in an immersive and endearing way. The author deals with the key themes superbly.

I strongly suggest that if you have not read it you do so and allow it to wash over you. I don't think you will regret it and I think you will thouroughly enjoy it.

I hope this review was of use to you:)
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