White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum

Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum puts a human face to the heartrending history of Korea and tells a story in which two sisters' love for one another is strong enough to triumph over decades and the grim evils of war.

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In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.


Advance Galley Reviews

Wow. I have to start by saying that this was not a light read, and it was also especially tough for being so near the holidays. That being said, it was an incredible book. I am not usually drawn to books set during war time or placed on the Asian continent and yet this book had me fully captivated. Bracht was masterful with her prose as well as her character development. They way she wove the 1943 and 2011 stories together never jolted me from the narrative. I spent much of this novel in tears and was heartbroken time and again by the experiences that Emi and Hana go through. I think this book while being well written and compelling is also really important. It's so easy to forget the people affected by war who weren't in battle. There is so much media commemorating and memorializing the soldiers who fought but so little telling the stories of the others who suffered equally horrific fates. I knew so little about the comfort women that this story was both harrowing and eye opening. I can't guarantee that this read will make you feel light and airy but it is a really good book with an awful but important message to share.

White Chrysanthemum is a fiercely poignant novel that commands the reader's attention from the beginning until the end. The novel will be with me for a long time, as the characters are so very real and vibrant. The story of these women and their families is heartbreaking; yet, so important to hear. The structure of the novel, that of two different time periods gives the readers a small respite from the intensity of emotion while at the same time drawing one's emotions back to a time when...

This book is fierce and passionate in a way that draws the reader in with bated breath. I read it in one sitting, though I'm sure I'll be facing the repercussions for that shortly. The characters are powerfully written, and though the book is by no means an easy read, Hana and Emi keep you going. I am ashamed of how little I know about the Korean War, and I am eager to read some of Bracht's suggestions provided at the end of the book. This is an incredible novel, let alone first novel, and I would recommend it to anyone. Bracht's writing is strong and the sisters are compelling, and I will never be able to write anything to do it justice.

I was initially drawn to this book because I love a dual-timeframe novel, especially when it's partially set in WW2. I haven't read any books set in WW2 Korea before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. This book was extremely absorbing. "Good" isn't really a word I can use to describe it, because the subject matter is horrifying. I have heard of the "comfort women" of World War 2 before, but this book does a really great job of highlighting the full extent of what these women and their families went through. This story is poignant, moving, and important. As mentioned in the Author's Note, stories like these need to be told and the atrocities need to be remembered so we can prevent history from repeating. I absolutely recommend this book, with a warning that the content is a bit graphic by nature and may be disturbing for some readers.

 


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