A sweeping novel of East and West, love and war, truths and denials. An eminent British writer returns to the resort hotel in the Japanese mountains where he once spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter. It was there he fell in love and wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As we learn more about his earlier life, however - as a student in Bloomsbury, involved with a famous American painter - we realise that he too is in denial, trying to escape past events that are now rapidly catching up with him. Audio recording and editing by Blake Brooks.
©2013 J. David Simons (P)2013 Saraband
Yes, I liked it, but if you stop and analyze what happens you over and over find things that just do not make sense! That wouldn't happen! That is unbelievable! If I give you examples, I am going to wreck the book for you.
Contemporary authors seem to think readers today no longer want a book that runs in chronological order. They all have to flip back and forth in time. Here we start in 2003 and then flip back first to the 50s and then to time periods closer and closer to 2003 when Edward is in his 70s. We learn retrospectively why he has become who he is. This flipping is not difficult to follow, but tell me, what is gained by this manner of writing?! Nothing as far as I can see.
Did I care for the characters? No, but they felt real. Edward is self-centered, egotistical and detached.
Do you get much history? No, even if some well-recognizable people (Churchill, Nehru) flash by! That Edward saw the American destruction of Japan (specifically Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima) with unforgiving eyes is not ever explained. He writes a book about it, but why he felt so moved is left unexplored. More could have been done with this theme.
What the book does excellently is beautifully draw for the reader the ambiance of a place - NY, London and Japan (around Tokyo). Mostly the latter two. Edward is Scottish. The Japanese characters feel Japanese. The American characters too. All the dialogs are perfect. Over and over I thought, "Yeah, that is exactly how a Japanese would talk to a foreigner." I have been there. I have also been to the places where the story is set, outside Tokyo. Everybody that goes to Japan will visit Kamakura and Hakone. On a crowded train near Hakone we were given painted toothpicks by a Japanese man. Given, they were a present from someone I did not know. You feel that the description of the places is genuine. However, I am a little unsure if my own memories make the lines more enjoyable for me than for a reader who has not been there..... How much have my own experiences added to the author's lines?
Japanese value beauty. This is an important theme of the book, and this is spot-on.
If you are curious about Japan or have been there, I think you will enjoy the book. I did.
One word about the narration by Nick Cheales - excellent! He perfectly captures different accents, Scottish, Japanese and American.
"Exquisite, beautiful story"
This is a beautifully written story, poignant, engrossing and with compelling characters. Some of those characters, including the main one, are hard to like, but others are people I'd like to have met myself. The relationships are complex and thought-provoking. The setting of postwar Japan is fascinating, and the descriptions of 50s London and New York are satisfying and interesting. Most of all, though, fantastic storytelling. The narration is also very well done.
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