Friday, June 21, 2013

The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  Julie Otsuka’s long-awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divineis a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.
In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the picture brides’ extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream.

Review: I had such a hard time getting into this book.  I was so thrown off by the "we" narration.  There were no single characters in this book.  Everything talked about we and our.  So when the author wrote the section about giving birth there were sentences such as "One of us gave birth in the fields.  Another one of us gave birth..."  (Those aren't quotes from the book, they are similar to what I remember).  Towards the middle of the book (which is only about 95 pages), I did get into the plural narration but I still longed for stories of a few of the characters.  I couldn't get a feel for how many women were in the story.  I saw a review on GoodReads that called this book a combination of a poem and a novella and once I saw that I understood the perspective better and I liked it better.  But if you are looking at it as a novel, it leaves much to be desired.

Rating: 3 stars

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