Review: White Chrysanthemum

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

G.P. Putnam, 2018. Hardcover, 320 pages.Cover: White Chrysanthemum

White Chrysanthemum is the story of two sisters born in Japanese-occupied Korea prior to World War II.  It features two storylines, one set in the midst of World War II and the other in 2011.  Both offer flashbacks to other earlier eras.

This historic storyline follows Hana, the older sister.  Hana, like her mother before her, is a Haenyeo, a female diver of the sea.  One day, a Japanese solider comes to the beach where her sister waits with her catch and she gives herself up to protect her sister.  Hana is taken prisoner and forced to become a “comfort woman,” or a forced prostitute to Japanese soldiers, in Manchuria.  All she wants is to return home.

In the more modern timeline, Emiko’s life is profiled.  She was the sister left behind.  All she wants to learn is what happened to her beloved older sister.  However, she keeps this from her children as well as how she was forced to marry their father.  As Emiko enters the end of her life, she travels on last time to Seoul to see her family from their native island off the coast.  Soon they learn the story after a chance encounter.  Will Emiko learn the truth?

 

As a whole, I just could not connect with with this novel.  While Bracht’s word were often well-chosen and descriptive, a quality I like in books, I was off-put by the number of flashbacks, some of which were confusing.  I say the latter because one may have to read a few paragraph to realize these are, in fact, flashbacks.  In addition, the sexual content was much higher than expected and graphic and cruel in content.  Those wanting a mild read should steer away.  I also felt that Morimoto’s fleeing was never fully explained.  Still, it told a story that I have not previously encountered in literature though aspects are addressed in the adult novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the children’s’ novel,  When My Name was Keoko, both of while are milder reads.

Do you think you’ll read this novel?  Or have you already?  If the latter, what were your thoughts?

This review is based on a book won in a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.

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