It’s been a while since we did a book review that was actually chosen by our beloved book club. Partly because life just got too hectic, and partly because we reminded ourselves that we should only write reviews about the ones we really loved, rather than the ones we were just lukewarm about.
And although we have had some good ‘uns pass us by, neither of us felt passionate enough about them to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be). Until now. In fact, A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton was a hit with both of us.
Here’s a rundown of the story from the blurb:
Amaterasu Takahashi has spent her life grieving for her daughter Yuko and grandson Hideo, who were victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Now a widow living in America, she believes that one man was responsible for her loss; a local doctor who caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter.
When a man claiming to be Hideo arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to revisit the past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance and the realisation that if she had loved her daughter in a different way, she might still be alive today.
For me, one of my favourite things about reading is the opportunity to learn; A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding was full of nuggets of knowledge on a topic that I thought I knew quite well, the second World War. But my western knowledge hadn’t quite extended as far as the devastation of what happened in the east during the war.
Amaterasu weaves us through pre- during and post-war Japan. She hints at the troubles that her family faced before war even arrived on their doorstep, the ferocity with which war tore everything apart, and the aftermath that leads her to flea her home country to the shores of the nation that bombed it.
It is a harrowing story that is so beautifully told, with an unashamedly raw undertone. I read much of the book with tears in my eyes and a quessy feeling in my stomach that naturally comes when reading a fictional tale grounded so heavily in historical facts. Where you know that real people experienced this haunting devastation. The story so carefully balances stark reminder of the cruelty that mankind inflicts on each other, but also the heartwarming affirmation that there is good and kindness all around us. It takes you on an emotional journey throughout.
I literally couldn’t put it down. I started it with only a few weeks to go before our book club meet, shrouded in blind fear that I was never going to finish it. I finished it in less than two weeks and would have done it in a day if pesky work and life commitments had not got in the way.
The book doesn’t just come recommended by me though, majority of our book club were equally as enthralled by this tale of loss, hope and forgiveness. So we urge you to give it a go, and come back and have book chat with us in the comments box below!