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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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on 17 December 2009
Not my usual genre of reading I have to admit, but I promised myself I would read at least 5 novels I usually wouldn't bother with this year- and I'm glad that this was one of them.

The novel centres around an alleged murder on a tiny Island off Puget Sound- a fisherman is found dead on his boat out at sea and a local Japanese fisherman is blamed for his death... Unfortunate when you consider that this is set in the years following Pearl Harbour and a degree of racism is still trite in the community- particularly amongst the victim's family.

The book itself was hard to put down, though a little wordy in places on some of the descriptions. It was atmospheric and moving and you quickly find yourself getting involved in the narrative and becoming caught up in the `community' of fictional San Piedro and just wondering if the suspect really is guilty or not. The `courtroom' aspects of the novel evoked just the right amount of suspense too- overall an enjoyable 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 August 2005
I studied this novel for a module in my literature AS level. Before we studied it I read it twice and fell in love with it, the more we studied it the more i began to appreciate how Guterson has crafted the story to deeply engage and involve the reader.I read the book now and I can feel the weather, smell the scents and I love how Guterson has created this effect. I find the story to be full and well written, he's obvously done a tonne of research and the plot is brilliant.Our teacher wouldn't let us watch the film until we'd taken the exam.I wasn't disappointed.All the moodiness, the atmosphere, the chemistry had translated so well and the film remains to be one of the best I've seen.
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on 24 August 2013
This is about a man on trial for murder and his relationship with the dead man. If it had taken a tenth of the time it did to say what happened it would still have been long drawn out and boring. Why so much description? Who cares? Nothing much happens - I just scrolled through and read whenever anything happened. It would make an incredibly short film as most of the book is description and peoples back stories. I wish I had not bought it. Do not bother - do something less boring like staring at a wall for a couple of hours - at least that is free.
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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 21 February 2003
Not only a fantastic thriller which will keep you guessing right 'til the last page, but one into which Guterson manages to weave a complex and gentle lesson on morality, a heart-breaking love story, and a study of the prejudices of an insulated community. Snow Falling on Cedars is written in a distant understated style which reflects the author's desire not to judge any of his characters, but rather to know them and understand their actions, and as such, comes across as a beautiful, poetic, yet utterly plausible story. Guterson's landscape is unforgiving, but it is one with which he is so obviously at one, that every page bursts with a vibrant authenticity which captivates the reader. This book works on every level imaginable, it is simply stunning.
If you liked To Kill A Mockingbird, I fully recommend this title.
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on 19 September 2013
I had seen references to this book many times. Knew nothing about it but the title appealed to me. Really glad I purchased it. It is very well written and an interesting read which also informs. Don't need to go over the story but recommend it.

The film is also vey good.
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on 4 May 2001
This novel deals with the treatment of Japanese Americans during WW2 and its aftermath. It focuses on the relationship between a white man, Ishmael and his former lover, Hatsue who is Japanese. Hatsue's husband (who is also Japanese) is charged with a murder that many people think is related to a past feud between the white and Japanese communities. Ishmael is caught between uncovering this murder mystery for his newspaper and his feelings for Hatsue. This is a great love story and mystery at the same time. I highly recommend this book.
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on 11 February 2016
A beautifully written book but I found it incredibly sad. I ached for all the main characters and I so hoped it would lighten up as the story progressed. Despite the undoubtable talent of David Guterson it didn't do that.
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