Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World War II Saga Plus Giveaway

I love to hear from authors who want me to read their books. I suppose someday I might get tired of it, but not when I receive a book like The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein.
Truthfully, from the title and the description, it's not a book I might have picked up, but I'm so glad I did.
From the very beginning, the writing is beautiful. Ahh, so this is a well-written literary novel, I thought. Not one that tries to impress people with its words, but one that lets the story slowly unfurl as the reader connects to each character.
The author is obviously someone who loves Japan as much as I love France. The details about Japanese homes, culture, and customs are definitely intriguing.
The novel begins, both in New York and Tokyo in 1935, introducing us to characters who are not yet affected by the coming war. The saga continues through the midst of the war, focusing on attempted attacks and the devastation in Japan. Most of us probably know the results of the atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I was unaware that Tokyo was firebombed and largely destroyed along with thousands of residents killed.
But that isn't what this book is about either. It's about the people and how they survive and whether love can grow in spite of evil deeds.
I can't possibly explain why I loved this book, so let me share a couple of passages. Anton, an architect who lived in Japan for more than a decade was asked to help the U.S. government figure out how to best bomb Tokyo. He built a Japanese village using authentic materials. When he couldn't get the floor mats the Japanese used, the U.S. government supplied them from an unknown source.
Anton had tried not to think about the mats'"lenders" as he inspected each of the units individually. Like the ghosts of his flaming oboji, though, they came to him anyway, their former lives whispered from the scars and nicks etched into the rough weave: dents from a low table, laden with food or books. Nail varnish from a careless pedicure. A sickle-moon scuff mark, the approximate shape of a toddler's sandaled heel. They haunted him, these small marks left by lives upended. But as Anton repeatedly reminded himself, he had taken the job. He had to agree to the rules.  

What details. What a way to delve into this character's ghosts as he helped fight war against a people and architecture he loved.
 Here's a passage from a lunch betweem Anton and Hana, another main character who is a glamorous Japanese woman raised in Great Britain.
"I can't eat when I'm nervous."
"Nervous?"
She exhaled a lazy plume of smoke, studying him as though trying to decide something. Finally, she said: "Certain people -- certain men -- have that effect on me."
At first Anton wasn't sure he'd heard correctly: she'd said it in the same way she might casually bring up a food allergy. When he did register her meaning there was a moment of disorientation. She's not well, he thought, as he had two weeks earlier. It occurred to him that it might be a good time to reemphasize the fact of his marriage.

In spite of loving the writing in this book, something happened, a plot twist in the third chapter, that almost made me put it down. Even now that I'm finished, I see so many possible ways the plot could have been changed so that readers wouldn't have that jarring, book dropping occasion. And that occurrence does taint my view of the novel. I'm very intolerant of violence and cruelty. Still, the rest of the war atrocities throughout the book didn't affect me as deeply as this one event, which I'm not revealing because it would be a spoiler.

I would probably give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I hope you'll give it a try.

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7 comments:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I had no idea what this book was about --just admired the attractive cover and curious about the great title.

It sounds like a well written story, but I am not one for reading books about the consequences of war/conflict.

Your review does make it sound worth trying, especially I'm curious about the "spoiler"....thanks for the great review.

Marguerite Buxton said...

Well you have enticed us in enough Paulita, to get the grasp of the book,,,,a little taster goes a long way :-)

traveler said...

This feature is fascinating. I would enjoy this novel greatly for the history and the story. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Charlotte said...

Like the cover of this book
CABWNANA1@bellsouth.net

Jeanie said...

This one sounds like something I might enjoy because in addition to a passion for France, I also have quite an interest in Japan. Nicely written and shared.

Gina D said...

I never liked history in school but enjoy historical fiction because it truly helps bring the past to life in a way that is interesting. Thanks for offering the giveaway.

Just Me said...

Your interview with the Jennifer sold me on this novel.

Thanks for the chance to win.

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