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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For fans of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko and 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. What a wonderful and awful book. The writing was good but the story was a horror. I haven’t yet stopped thinking of those poor girls.

This story was very sad and at times hard for me to continue reading. However, it does a beautiful job of shining a light on a little-known part of history.

I read about 50 pages of this book before I gave up; it just didn't grab me.

I love stories about WWII and the Pacific Islands. This story did not disappoint! Five stars! I look forward to reading more from this author.

White Chrysanthemum is a heartbreaking story about a family, more specifically, two sisters, ripped apart by Japan’s occupation of Korea during WWII. The book is hard to read, but is a story that few people probably know about. The subject matter is grim and there are few happy moments. Where this books shines, is it’s realistic depictions of the fate of young girls and women during WWII. The book alternates between the sisters; older sister, Hana in the 1940’s as a young girl and younger sister, Emi, now in her 70’s. As a girl, Hana makes a huge sacrifice for her sister and in turn, her sister, Emi lives a left of shame because of it. Again, despite the subject matter, I found this book beautifully written and loved the background story of the haenyeo, woman divers of Jeju Island. Highly recommended.

Unfortunately I did not get to finish this book before it expired due to a family emergency. The beginning of this book is extremely heart wrenching and sad and I feel for the sisters, Hana and Emi. I hope to pick this book up again soon and be able to find out what happens to these characters.

I received an advanced copy of this book from First to Read for an honest review of White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht. 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? This story is very emotional and deeply touched my heart. I found myself having to stop, take a break, and blow my nose a few times throughout the book. If you like a bittersweet story, read White Chrysanthemum.

Summary:      In a little island town in Korea during World War II two sisters are torn apart to lead very different lives.  The eldest, Hanna, taken by Japanese soldiers, the youngest, Emi to survive with the guilt and pray that she finds the sister she loves again someday.  Traveling back and forth from 1943 to 2011, a story of love heart ache and strength of spirit unfolds. My thoughts:            This book is not a quick read.  It will break you, wreck you.  It is beautiful in it’s description of savagery.  I loved it.  The characters were well done and glorious.  You ended up enthralled by their stories.  I loved the way the Haenyeo were described and the absolute devotion the sisters had to one another.  There was so much to adore with this beautifully written book!  I will admit that I had to take time to digest before reviewing this book.  Some of the events really hit me hard.  For me, this is a five star book.   On the adult content scale there’s violence, abduction, rape and language.  I would not recommend for a teen reader.  I give it an eight.  I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My thanks!

Sad, truthful, heartbreaking, eyeopening and grief-stricken, White Chrysanthemum was a hard book to read because of the brutal reality of the side of war that is prevalent even now. The injustice that women and girls are subjected to during the trying times of War specifically the 'Comfort Women' was the core of this magnificent novel. White Chrysanthemum brought into light the story of two sisters who got separated during the Korean War with Japan. In order to save her sister from being taken, Hana, lets herself be taken by a Japanese soldier who happens upon her during one of her diving excursion with her mom and sister. Hana's plight after being kidnapped is told simultaneously with Emi's narrative having lived her life stricken with guilt who keeps searching for Hana. White Chrysanthemum was hard to read but I kept wanting to know what happened to our two heroines. It brought into light this historical aspect of Korean history that I wasn't aware of. I believe such novels need to be written in order to remember and honour all those people who serve in a War and are subjected to the horrors of War. I loved White Chrysanthemum for being an indulgent read that brings to light horrors women have suffered at the hands of men. Special thanks to First to Read program and the Publishers for this review copy. Can be found at blog and goodreads as well.

In 1943 Korea, Hana and her mother are haenyeo, female divers of the sea, providing for their family. Emi, Hana;s younger sister who is too little to dive, sits on the shore and protects their catch while they are in the sea. One day a Japanese soldier comes to the beach. Hana notices him and draws his attention away from Emi to protect her. Hana is taken by the soldier and transported to Manchuria, where she is forced to become a “comfort women”; Living in a brothel and becoming a sex slave for the soldiers. White Chrysanthemum explores the life and culture of the Korean’s before, during and after WWII. The haenyeo were fascinating to learn about, but it was heartbreaking to witness the control of the Japanese over the Koreans during WWII. The violence, abuse and humiliation the Korean’s endured is beyond imagination, especially the woman. No one should ever have to endure what Hana went through. I had never heard of the “comfort women” of WWII before reading this book. I was also appalled that the Japanese government confirmed this happened in 1993, only to retract the statement in 2007. Likewise the South Korean government agreed with Japan in 2015 to never speak of the “comfort women” again and removed the Statue of Peace. We all need to remember these women and the pain and suffering they endured. History must never repeat these atrocious acts.

I would love to give this book a proper view, but to my dismay only 1/4 of the way through, the Adobe edition will not open. The link to download expired. Albeit heart wrenching, the first 1/4 was beautifully written. Reading it was like watching a movie play out in my head. Guess I'll have to buy it to finish it. And that I'll do because I want to know how these girls' stories unfold. I have traveled to South Korea and Jeju Do. And I loved revisiting these places, primarily in the past, via the author.

This book was very heartbreaking from the first few pages when Hana was taken. I cant imagine how she must have felt and how difficult it was to live while the war was present. This story was not easy to read as the emotions stirs you up and you just cant get over it. However, the bittersweet moment of her sister, Emi, finally finding peace gives you a little more sense of calmness that she will be able to let go and let that scar heal that has been a nuisance all her life. Hana shows love for her sister in an imaginable way with all her sacrifices and remains strong with the memory of her family and hopes to see them one day. In the end, both sisters were able to achieve some peace and the worst was over in their own way. This was indeed a beautiful story.

White Chrysanthemum is a book I would definitely pick up and read. I enjoyed reading this book so much and the story was so captivating. I fell in love with all the characters and how the sisters connect through telling the story from the past to present The writing of the story felt so real and raw. I felt as though Hana and Emi are real people living in S. Korea. As someone who is aware of some of the controversial historical events that took place in S. Korea during the Japanese occupation of WWII, this book really brought those facts to life. I also find the topic of this book the "comfort woman" to be quite controversial presently. There are still women and people in Korea who feel wronged by the lack of any acknowledgement or justice of this painful history "comfort woman" from the Japanese government. I also feel that the book brings a humane story to life and as a woman and sister I absolutely appreciate the author for telling such a special story through this book.

I received an advanced copy of this book from First to Read for an honest review of White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht. The story takes place in 1943 on the Jeju Island which is off the coast of Korea. Hana is 16 years old and her little sister Emi is 8. The family are haenyeo fishermen which mean that dive in deep water to catch fish. On a beautiful day, Hana is fishing with her mom and other villerages while her sister sits on shore waiting for them to return. Hana emerges from the water to see a Japanese soldier heading towards the shore where her sister sits. The villagers have heard about the soldiers taking young girls and women and never seeing them again. Fearing for her sisters safety, Hana hurries to the shore to protect her sister Emi. Hana reaches her sister before the soldier sees her. To protect her sister, she leaves with the soldier not realizing what lies ahead. Although the events are ugly and sometimes hard to imagine, I loved this book! Until reading this book, I had never heard of the Comfort Women of the war. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 stars out of 5 stars. Thank you First to Read for offering me this book to read.

White Chrysanthemum was a wonderfully written, heart breaking book. I read The Rape of Nanking, so I’ve read some about the horrors inflicted on women during WWII. I didn’t realize how it also happened in Korea. As tough as it was to read Hana’s section, she was a strong character who maintained her sense of self and identity in a horrible situation. Emi’s chapters provides some relief from the details of Hana’s situation, but gave further details about the Korean War and living with grief. Overall, this book was an engaging emotional read. I would recommend it for historical fiction fans.

This was such a wonderful book. Hana and Emi are engaging characters and their stories are emotional and heartbreaking. I was not familiar with Korean culture or any of the events that occurred there during that time period prior to reading this book so I also found it educational. The author's writing is beautiful and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Wow. What a wonderful book. It did take me longer to read than normal, mostly because it was emotionally draining. Hana's life after she is kidnapped by the Japanese was horrifying and so so sad. Overall, I was very impressed.

This book is amazing! I cannot say enough good things about it. The story is heartbreaking and engaging, and if you get a chance to pick this book up, make sure you do. This is a dual perspective story of two sisters during two different time periods, one reflecting and one living through the events that transpired in Korea during Japan's annexation. I had never heard of these events in the past, and this story has motivated me to learn more about them. 5 star read!

This is a compelling and emotional read centering around two sisters and two time periods- Hana, who is forced to become a "comfort woman" during the mid-1940's and Emi, who in 2011, is and older woman haunted by the sacrifice her sister made for her. I have very mixed emotions when it comes to dual timelines in general, but Bracht handles them very well and weaves them into the novel nicely. The journey of these two sisters is stirring and raw. There are definitely scenes in Hana's narrative that were difficult to read so this is not for the faint of heart. While reading this, I felt an overall sadness as I cannot imagine what these women had to go through in that time or quite frankly, what women go through now in 2018. I would definitely recommend this to fans of historical fiction or those who are looking for a well-written, emotional read.

If we are spoken about, then we can never disappear. Generally, I have a personal moratorium on books set in the 1940s because they seem to all be about World War II, and from a Western perspective. This book was different. It's set in a dual timeline between 1943 and 2011 about two Korean sisters, and the lasting effect of the Japanese colonization of Korea on them, their family, and Korean society at large. Mary Lynn Bracht writes a devastingly gorgeous and heartbreaking story of the women whose lives were destroyed by the wars in Korea in the 1940s and 1950s. Her writing left me breathless with its intensity and impact. I was hopeful and fearful for both women as I read their stories, never knowing how their lives would develop because I'd never heard this kind of story told before. We start the story following Hana, a haenyeo, one of several women on her island who dive for a living. These women are admired for their incredible strength and self-sufficiency, as they manage to support their families even through the time of Japanese occupation. We then meet Emi, another haenyeo living in 2011, reflecting on her life as it draws to a close, but also desperately searching for someone. We learn of both their stories as the novel progresses, a mere snapshot into the horrendous experiences of thousands of Koreans in the mid-20th century. All the trigger warnings for rape, violence against women, etc. This is not a rose-tinted view of war at all. Mary Lynn Bracht does not shy away from the brutality that Korean faced during the Japanese occupation, World War II and the Korean War.

Good book!

When I worked at a small Midwestern liberal arts college, I made the acquaintance of a student whose Korean heritage fed her passion for the halmonis or “grandmothers” and encouraged her to make an extended visit to South Korea and participate in a Wednesday Demonstration. Her interest became mine, albeit less passionately, but I did spend time via the Internet, researching the history of these women, the horrors and injustices inflicted on them, and the decades of silence that followed. It compelled me to read Dai Sil Kim-Gibson’s Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women and Comfort Women by Nora Okja Keller. White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht is a wonderful addition to my reading and a beautiful book. I fell in love with Hana and Emi. Both have such wonderful, captivating and heartbreaking stories. One sister, Hana, traded the life she knew to protect her younger sister. Emi, realizing this, lived a lifetime of shame because her sister gave her life for her. White Chrysanthemum brought to life not only “comfort women,” but the haenyeo, the South Korean women divers of the island of Jeju. I loved how the story began and ended with them. I highly recommend this book. I think it’s an important one to read. It’s also an emotional one. I can’t begin to recount the number of extraordinary scenes in this novel, the ones that angered me, the ones that sickened me beyond belief, and those filled with such beauty it made it all worthwhile.

This was a new period of women's history for me to explore and Hana and Emiko were compelling guides. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction will enjoy White Chrysanthemum. It's well written. I found it a bit slow paced at times and the brutality is abundant, as it is in war stories, but the well drawn characters and the outstanding writing make this one to read!

I loved a book this past year about Korea, which both drew my toward and pushed me away from White Chrysanthemum. I came close to skipping reading this ARC, and I'm so glad I went forward with reading it. The stories of Hana and Emiko are both compelling and gripping. I was so pleased to get back to the story of each woman to find out what happened to her. I did find the first 100 pages to be slow in places, but after that the narrative surged forward and didn't let me look away. It was difficult to read some of the scenes of repeated rape and violence, but these stories are so important to tell and not look away from, lest we forget. I loved the ending for both women and would certainly recommend this read to others.

I love this book. It follows two sisters and their hardships that they experience in time of Japanese occupation as well as the times that came after. It's an amazing story that offers insight to what women may have gone through during that period. It's very personal, raw, and just a page turning read. I highly recommend this. There are parts of the book that are very detailed when it comes to comfort women, so if you're squeamish when it comes to those things, you've been warned.

In many ways, I found this a difficult read, but it was beautifully written. A moving and heartbreaking story that needs to be told.

This isn’t one of those books that is heartbreaking in so many ways but definitely worth the read. It tells the story of two sisters as their happy existence is shattered after Hana, the older of the two, is seized by the Japanese in 1943 and forced to become a “comfort woman” for the Japanese soldiers. The story jumps between 2011 as Emi, the younger sister, tries to reconcile the guilt she has over her lifetime of having her sister save her from being kidnapped herself and Hana’s story after she was taken. I admit to having no knowledge of this terrible atrocity that went on during the world. Such suffering. For that reason alone, the book was so worthwhile to read. Thanks to Random House and their First to Read program for the opportunity to read an advanced copy.

This was an amazing book. It was so beautifully written. Parts of the book, Hana's story mainly, were difficult to read at times. It was especially difficult knowing that this story is based on real events and that the "comfort women" actually went through much worse. Sometimes you're fortunate to come across a book that you on know will stay with you forever. This is that book.

Such a sad story. I hated everything Hana had to go through. This book made me cry!

I have been on the lookout for books around the world and this book ticked "South Korea/Korea" for me. What a captivating story about sisters Hana and Emi, who were separated during the Japanese occupation of Korea - Hana was kidnapped by a Japanese soldier to serve as a "sex slave". The prose is so beautifully written. I had tears nearly throughout the book. Cannot wait to read more from the author.

This is one of those rare books that I didn't want to end. I didn't want to leave behind the two sisters, Hana and Emi, whose stories are told here. The sisters are separated in 1943 Korea when occupying Japanese soldiers kidnap Hana to become a "comfort woman" serving the sexual appetites of Japanese soldiers far from home. This is a story of love between sisters that cannot die with separation or the passage of years. It is a story of two strong women determined to regain their independence and dignity. It is a story about Asian cultures in Korea, Japan, and Manchuria. It also brings to the eyes of the world the horrible stories of thousands of women sex slaves. This is a book that I will not fail to recommend to my own sisters and friends

"White Chrysanthemum" is a beautifully written book about horrible events that occurred during war. I couldn't put it down, I was so drawn into the stories of the sisters.

"Sometimes, old wounds need to be reopened to let them properly heal." The white chrysanthemum – in Korea, the flower of the funeral, the flower of death. This story tells of death – perhaps not always death of the body; the spirit can die too. This book tells of the ‘comfort women’, women stolen from Korea to satisfy the sexual needs of the Japanese invaders. Somehow the Japanese think that sexually satisfied men will make better warriors. This book had me captivated from sentence 1. Historical fiction is my kind of book. And, despite its sadness and horror, oh, I do love this book. It is historical fiction at its finest, full of historical and unfamiliar facts. In the first 5 sentences alone, I found: Japan annexed Korea in 1910 Koreans speak fluent Japanese, are educated in Japanese history and culture, and are prohibited from speaking, reading, or writing in their native Korean. Hana, the protagonist, and her mother are haenyeo, women of the sea, and they work for themselves. Haenyeo are female divers in the Korean province of Jeju and are known for their independent spirit, iron will and determination. The story of Hana and her family begins in 1943. Hana is an only child until she turns 7 years old. When Little Sister is born, her mother says in a serious tone “You are her protector now, Hana”. Hana promises to protect her and knows this promise is forever. This is a very fast paced book. In the first chapter alone, we meet Hana, her sister is born, a Japanese soldier abducts Hana, and in order to save her sister as she has promised, she goes with the soldier without complaint. Hana is abducted but her sister stays behind. 2011. We meet Emi and quickly learn she is Little Sister… 58 years later. Emi is old and sad and tormented with horrible dreams. She has lost someone she loves. Can she find her? The story alternates between Hana, whose body is imprisoned and Emi, whose spirit is imprisoned. Yes, the book is full of gruesome and horrific images. However we need to know these horrible things happened. I strongly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction and those who care.

A fantastic read. I knew nothing about this period in history, and the book was written in a way that made it both an interesting story and an informative historical narrative. Once I started reading, I found it hard to stop, finishing the entire book in two days. The sisters' dedication to one another, and the strength they gain from it, is remarkable.

This is tale of 2 Korean sisters told in alternating viewpoints and from different years- Hana in 1943 & Emi in 2011. The author exposes the horrors of how women were treated during wartime (WWII & Korean war). I enjoyed learning about the haenyeo (female diver of the sea) and the strength of character that this gave the girls. This was a very emotional read that covers many areas of family, life, and war. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

It is truly frightening the number of times in history that women have been used and abused as the spoils of war. This book tells the story of one such women, Hana, who is taken into slavery during WW2 when the Japanese occupied Korea. Told from her point of view it's heart wrenching; she is raped and assaulted continually by Japanese soldiers after being kidnapped by a man who tried ultimately to own her body and soul. It's difficult to read at times. She has a happier ending than most of the so called "comfort women". This is also the story of Hana's younger sister, the secret she keeps that threatens to destroy her and her quest to find her sister and find peace. It's a beautifully written story; the best I've read in awhile

Mary Lynn Bracht's White Chrysanthemum is a powerful, unforgettable, haunting and disturbing historical fiction book. I was not familiar with this time in history when the Japanese occupied Korea during WW2, 1943. This is the story of two sisters who were separated when sixteen year old Hana protecting four year old Emi, put herself in the path of the enemy, a Japanese soldier. He abducted Hana and took her far away to Manchuria where she was forced to become a "comfort woman" in a Japanese brothel. Here Hana was beaten and abused as she had to service over twenty Japanese soldiers each day. Emi has spent her entire life trying to find her missing sister. Their haunting search for each other through the years is told by each sister as the past merges with the present. Tragic events, suspenseful moments, and a never ending search highlights their stories as both sisters strive to be united through two wars from 1943 to 2011. The memory of this tragic but compelling book will stay with me for a long time.

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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