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White Chrysanthemum PDF, ePub eBook 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 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 60 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.

30 review for White Chrysanthemum

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    This was not an easy book to read, yet I’m glad that I did. It’s a beautifully written tribute to Korean women who were taken from their homes during the Japanese occupation and forced to be “comfort women”, an inconceivably gentle phrase for the sex slaves they were made to be . It’s also a tribute and a remembrance as the author points out in her note, to all women around the world subjected to rape during wartime. These horrific events of barbaric treatment, this story of what happened to the This was not an easy book to read, yet I’m glad that I did. It’s a beautifully written tribute to Korean women who were taken from their homes during the Japanese occupation and forced to be “comfort women”, an inconceivably gentle phrase for the sex slaves they were made to be . It’s also a tribute and a remembrance as the author points out in her note, to all women around the world subjected to rape during wartime. These horrific events of barbaric treatment, this story of what happened to these women is depicted through the lives of two sisters. Their separate narratives are told decades apart, but they each are very much a part of one another’s thoughts and dreams and memories. Hana, the older sister begins her telling in 1943, when at sixteen she has learned her mother’s skill as a “haenyeo” , a diver, a fisher woman. In spite of the Japanese occupation, their life on this small island off the coast of southern Korea has remained quiet yet vigilant while fearing the Japanese soldiers. Her story of brutal and vicious treatment cuts to the core. What happens to Hana is not for the faint of heart. Hana’s chapters alternate with her younger sister Emi’s when years later in 2011, Emi recounts the past that she has kept from her family, not telling them of the day her sister is taken by a Japanese soldier, as Hana tried to save her little sister from this fate . Emi, though not taken by the Japanese soldier relives the horrific times that she endures. Grief and guilt and love of family, the burdens of the past prey on Emi and she finally tells her children of her losses , her sorrow, the awful things that happened to her village and her family. It’s a work of fiction but it holds the truth of the past as a good work of historical fiction can do. This appears to be well researched and I read several articles confirming what happened during this time to the Koreans. It seems cliche to say this is heartbreaking and gut wrenching but it is difficult to find anything other than these ordinary words. The thing is - there nothing ordinary about this book. Mary Lynn Bracht in her note says “Of those tens of thousands of women and girls enslaved by the Japanese military, only forty-four South Korean survivors are still alive (at the writing of this book) to tell the world what happened during their captivity, how they survived, and how they returned home. We will never know what happened to the other women and girls who perished before getting the chance to let the world know what they suffered .” With this novel she has given them a voice. I’m not sure why I originally gave it 4.5 stars. It is deserving of all the stars . I received an advanced copy of this book from G.P. Putnam's Sons / Penguin through Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I love when a story takes me to a place I've never heard of, especially an exotic location in the South Korean sea. But in 1943, that beauty was shadowed by the horrid history of war. Taking hundreds of thousands of lives - not just soldiers, but women who were kidnapped and offered up to soldiers to be 'comfort women': to be raped, humiliated and often murdered all in the name of supporting the Japanese war efforts. This story starts on Jeju island which sits on the map just south of Korea. It's I love when a story takes me to a place I've never heard of, especially an exotic location in the South Korean sea. But in 1943, that beauty was shadowed by the horrid history of war. Taking hundreds of thousands of lives - not just soldiers, but women who were kidnapped and offered up to soldiers to be 'comfort women': to be raped, humiliated and often murdered all in the name of supporting the Japanese war efforts. This story starts on Jeju island which sits on the map just south of Korea. It's isolated from the mainland, but not far enough from being impacted by the war. The island is occupied by the Japanese military. Two sisters and their mother are haenyeo: divers of the sea. Hana, the eldest, is taken one day by the Japanese as she finishes a swim and is forced into the life of sacrifice to save her younger sister. Fast forward to 2011. Emi, the youngest, now 77, is still haunted by that day Hana was taken. The pain of remembrance and her own sufferings follow her as she heads toward her own final fate. To those women who were courageous in their survival and their circumstances, may we never forget the pain of your confinement; the suffering of your so many losses. This one made me weep. An awesome read. 5⭐️

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This is a book with very hard to read subject matter. It is a beautiful book and an ugly book,and a book based on historical truisms. It is also about historical events of which I had no knowledge. Hana comes from a long line of strong women who are called haenyo, they dive for a living, capturing the bottom feeders of sea creatures, which will be sold at the market. Emi, her younger sister, still not a strong enough swimmer, stays on shore to guard the catch. The Japanese are the occupiers of So This is a book with very hard to read subject matter. It is a beautiful book and an ugly book,and a book based on historical truisms. It is also about historical events of which I had no knowledge. Hana comes from a long line of strong women who are called haenyo, they dive for a living, capturing the bottom feeders of sea creatures, which will be sold at the market. Emi, her younger sister, still not a strong enough swimmer, stays on shore to guard the catch. The Japanese are the occupiers of South Korea, and the women have been warned about these men, never to be found alone. When she sees her younger sister about to become a victim, Hana does the only thing possible, drawing their eyes from her sister and on to herself. A beautiful act of unselfish love. Forced to endure sex as a comfort women, to the Japanese, though in her case it is a particular enemy, Morimoto, who will become her keeper and enslaver. The book alternates between the fate of Hana and other women, and Emi, now in her seventies. She still dives, freer in the water than on land with her aged body, and the life she now leads. A story that is both poignant and horrifying, but told very well. The authors note explains the history behind the story. Between 50,000 and 200,000 of South Korean women were kidnapped and forced to become comfort women to the Japanese army. Most times their parents did not know what happened to them, their fate unknown. I loved both these women, Hana, her strength of character and Emi, who seeks closure. As I said some scenes are hard to read, they are graphic, but they happened. Are in fact still happening to women of many nations. Why is it that men wage war, and women left behind pay the price? What the men went through is acknowledged, we now understand PTSD and other effects of war, though I admit I find even their treatment subpar. What women have gone through is little talked about, if they are lucky enough to return home their family is often too embarrassed to talk and often hide what happened. A guilty shame. So books like this are important. They force us to see and feel for those lost in the shadows. ARC from Edelweiss.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Langford

    4.5**** Look for your sister after each dive. Never Forget. If you see her, you are safe. Korea, 1943. Both Hana and Emi have lived their entire lives under Japanese occupation; their Korean names, literature and cultural practices are repressed and made illegal. Living on Jeju Island, Hana is a Haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. Both her and her mother, as well as some other women, enjoy an independence that so few other Koreans can enjoy. Emi is too young and so has to wait on the shore while s 4.5**** Look for your sister after each dive. Never Forget. If you see her, you are safe. Korea, 1943. Both Hana and Emi have lived their entire lives under Japanese occupation; their Korean names, literature and cultural practices are repressed and made illegal. Living on Jeju Island, Hana is a Haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. Both her and her mother, as well as some other women, enjoy an independence that so few other Koreans can enjoy. Emi is too young and so has to wait on the shore while she watches and waits for her mother and sister to finish their dive and catch of sea creatures. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier on the beach heading towards her sister. With all her strength she powers toward the shore, saving her younger sister, but in the process is captured herself and transported to become a 'comfort woman'. Switching to 2011, we are told of Emi's story and her life spent trying to repress the unhappiness of her past including the sacrifice that her sister made. However, in order to discover peace she must confront her past and valiantly searches for her beloved sister. The book switches from 1932/1933 under Hana's point of view to 2011 from Emi's point of view. While Hana's point of view describes the absolute horror of being trafficked and repeatedly raped and abused while being a "comfort woman", Emi's story shows the after effects of her sister's disappearance, the Jeju Massacre and her forced marriage to a man that she hates during the Korean War. Despite the ceaseless amount of horror both of these young women faced, it also shows their absolute resilience and bravery, and how their love and memory of each other and their lives as Haenyeo gives them some light and hope in these awful circumstances. This book highlighted a piece of history I hardly knew anything about. I had heard of the Japanese occupation of Korea but not much else. It is believed that up to 200,000 Korean women and girls were stolen, tricked and sold into military sexual slavery for and by the Japanese military during Japan's colonisation of Korea. Many of these women and girls did not come home and are still missing- their families never finding the answers to their whereabouts or what happened to them. Their tragic stories unknown. Unbelievably, it was only in 1993 when Japan acknowledged the existence of comfort women, which was then later retracted. It seems as though there is no reparation for these women, no apology or substantial governmental recognition of their stories. There is a silencing of these voices. This book gave a glimpse into the suffering of Korean women affected by the war, whether these women were taken or left behind. Mary Lynn Bracht, the author, gives the important knowledge of atrocities committed against women and the attention and sympathy these women deserve, otherwise their stories could be lost for ever. This book fascinated me and submerged me into learning parts of the Haenyeo culture, while also offering me insight into the war. This book left me feeling like my heart had been wrenched from my body, a deep seed of dread and sadness whenever I picked the book up. The story was utterly devastating but important, and was also unputdownable as I just needed to learn and know more about both Hana and Emi's lives. I think if you enjoyed books such as "A Thousand Splendid Suns" where there is unfairness, devastation and sadness, yet hope and beauty, then "White Chrysanthemum" should be a good read for you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    A deeply moving and beautifully written historical fiction novel of human resilience and enduring love of sisters, a story about the Korean ‘comfort women’ prostituted by Japanese soldiers in World War II and two sisters separated as young girls but the bond of sisters remains strong and they never strop thinking about each other.. This was an eye opening and haunting debut novel by Mary Lynn Brecht and while fictional it is based on real life events that are harrowing and disturbing in places to A deeply moving and beautifully written historical fiction novel of human resilience and enduring love of sisters, a story about the Korean ‘comfort women’ prostituted by Japanese soldiers in World War II and two sisters separated as young girls but the bond of sisters remains strong and they never strop thinking about each other.. This was an eye opening and haunting debut novel by Mary Lynn Brecht and while fictional it is based on real life events that are harrowing and disturbing in places to read but I always remind myself that I only have to read about these events " real woman had to endure them and their families have to relive them in trying to find justice and peace for these women" and I thank the author for giving me the opportunity to read and lean about a time in history that was not taught in my curriculam in secondary school. The people in this book are not just make up characters but flesh and blood people in the past whose stories need to be told through fiction or non fiction to educative and keep their memory alive and to seek the truth for a new generaltion. I have lined up a couple of Non Fiction reads to further educate me about this time in our world's ugly history. I listened to this book on audio and the narrator was excellent, well paced and easy to listen to. I always find historical fiction books really give a terrific insight into history and although they are not 100% accurate they do tend to introduce the reader to events and people in history they may not have been aware of or might never read about and I think that is so important. I am starting the Rape of Nanking a non fiction book about the Nanking Massacre and the massive atrociities committed by Imperial Japanese Army after it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    This book was a fictional tale about an important real-life historical topic, so I really wanted to love this book, but I only ended up sort of liking it. When a book tackles such a horrifying time in history-when Korean women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military as 'comfort women'-it's hard to balance the need for both captivating storytelling and historical accuracy. I personally really struggled to emotionally connect with this book despite it's desperately u This book was a fictional tale about an important real-life historical topic, so I really wanted to love this book, but I only ended up sort of liking it. When a book tackles such a horrifying time in history-when Korean women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military as 'comfort women'-it's hard to balance the need for both captivating storytelling and historical accuracy. I personally really struggled to emotionally connect with this book despite it's desperately upsetting subject: a teenage girl (Hana) who willingly gets captured in order to save her much younger sister (Emi) from the same fate. I think my lack of emotional connection is mainly because the author chose to write this story in a third person narrative instead of first person, so there was already this built-in distance between the reader and the characters. I'm usually not one to even notice things like that! But when reading a scene that involves something terrible happening, which of these sentences do you feel more connected to: "I closed my eyes and held my breath" or "She closed her eyes and held her breath"? See what I mean (pun unintended)? The whole time I felt like I was reading a story, I was never really IN the story. And with a subject like this, I truly think it does a disservice to distance the reader from the horrors that were happening. But beyond that, I also just felt like the book in some ways just kind of quickly moved past the whole sexual-slavery part. For something that was a pretty central point to the whole book, Hana doesn't actually spend that much page time dealing with it. We're just told at one point that she has been there for 80-something days and then she is suddenly no longer in that specific situation. And that itself was a weird ending to her story - I don't want to get into spoilers for that, but let's just say it never made sense and it was never fully explained, Morimoto was just a cartoonishly evil character with a backstory that made no sense and neither did most of his actions(view spoiler)[Why would you send your wife and child to America if you were fighting Americans? Why was he obsessed with Hana? At one point he seemed to be a man in charge but then later he was just a guard and then even later was either a spy or a smuggler but that was never explained either. (hide spoiler)] . Meanwhile, Emi's story felt like the absolute filler it mostly was. Her daughter felt like a full character but her son just seemed cold and distant and Emi herself hid her entire (not that interesting comparative to Hana) past for seemingly no real reason. Also, the cause of her (view spoiler)[one limping leg (hide spoiler)] was never explained either. So why did I rate this 3 'I liked it' stars? Because I do feel like this book shined a light on a subject most people (including myself) don't know much about. And it was relatively well written. And I did find myself enjoying the tension/uncertainty of Hana's situation at the end of the book, even though that part came out of left field. I have not read the other book released just this year about the same subject/timeframe The Island of Sea Women, but I am curious as to how it would stack up against this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Powerfully heartbreaking. I am always so appreciative of authors that bring remarkable stories like this to the forefront. How many stories like Hanna’s exist? ‘The list of women suffering wartime rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, commemorate the atrocities against them in museums, and remember the women and girls we lost by erecting monuments in their honor, like the Statue of Peace.’ These events can not be covered up... knowle Powerfully heartbreaking. I am always so appreciative of authors that bring remarkable stories like this to the forefront. How many stories like Hanna’s exist? ‘The list of women suffering wartime rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, commemorate the atrocities against them in museums, and remember the women and girls we lost by erecting monuments in their honor, like the Statue of Peace.’ These events can not be covered up... knowledge is power and stories like this need to continue to be written. A must read. 5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Celia

    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 ficti 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 while her sister hides. Hana is abducted but her sister stays behind. 2011. We meet Emi and quickly learn she is Little Sister… 68 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. Re-read Update There were things that I noticed on the second read that I did not on the first read. Just as engaging (and sad) on the second read as the first. Bracht (who is of Korean heritage), wishes to leave you with this final thought: War is terrible, brutal, and unfair, and when it ends, apologies must be given, reparations made, and survivors’ experiences remembered. 5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This well done historical fiction covers two sisters in Korea, starting during WWII and going right through 2011. While I was familiar with comfort women, what was less known by me was the history of Korea between WWII and the Korean War. I had no idea of the brutality of the South Korean government. Hana is the older sister. A haenyeo, or sea diver, she is taken off the beach by a Japanese corporal and sent to a brothel in China. Her younger sister, Emi escaped notice that day. Emi’s story is t This well done historical fiction covers two sisters in Korea, starting during WWII and going right through 2011. While I was familiar with comfort women, what was less known by me was the history of Korea between WWII and the Korean War. I had no idea of the brutality of the South Korean government. Hana is the older sister. A haenyeo, or sea diver, she is taken off the beach by a Japanese corporal and sent to a brothel in China. Her younger sister, Emi escaped notice that day. Emi’s story is told in 2011 and seen more in a backwards glance. As you would expect, it’s a sad tale. It’s well written but graphic and hard to take at times. Bracht does a good job of mixing historical facts into her storyline without disrupting the flow. I did struggle to buy into Morimoto’s fixation on Hana. And because of that, the ending didn’t ring true to me. Although I did appreciate Bracht’s Author’s Note explaining her reasoning for the ending. I also read Tiger Pelt, by Annabelle Kim, which also covers the history of comfort women and found it to be more believable, although much darker. This was our book club selection and I can recommend it for other clubs looking for a discussion worthy choice.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Subject matter in this novel was heartbreaking to read but paints a legitimate picture of the suffering of Koreans by the Japanese during WWII and post-war. The story alternatively told told from Hana and Emi’s perspectives, sisters who were ripped apart from one another at a young age is powerful. Hana’s story begins in 1943 as a young girl taken by Japanese soldiers to be used as a sex slave; Emi’s story in 2011, as an older woman carrying the guilt of Hana’s disappearance and trying to come t Subject matter in this novel was heartbreaking to read but paints a legitimate picture of the suffering of Koreans by the Japanese during WWII and post-war. The story alternatively told told from Hana and Emi’s perspectives, sisters who were ripped apart from one another at a young age is powerful. Hana’s story begins in 1943 as a young girl taken by Japanese soldiers to be used as a sex slave; Emi’s story in 2011, as an older woman carrying the guilt of Hana’s disappearance and trying to come to terms with the past. The sisters’ interwoven narratives relating to this historic atrocity are a sobering reminder of sins of the past and relevance to the present.. This is a book that will be put in a prominent place on my bookshelf, one that has influenced me to reflect on the good life I’ve been given. I am grateful Mary Lynn Bracht chose a topic that I was unfamiliar with. She brilliantly captures the essence of human endurance and spirit. A must read. Side note: I wondered if any of these women were still alive so did a web search. Very few are. I discovered South Korea passed legislation in Nov 2017 creating a holiday on August 14 each year to recognize the thousands of sex slaves, or "comfort women," used by the Japanese military during World War II. Aug 14 is the anniversary of a 1991 news conference given by victim Kim Hak-soon, the first to publicly testify about her experience as a comfort woman.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    "Instead she swallowed her emotions, until she was able to continue to exist." This book reminded me why historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's. I learned so much about the Korean war and Korean traditions. I also knew nothing about haenyeo, women of the sea, a community of close-knitted female divers and matriarchs. The author is an amazing writer, she tackles the very upsetting topic of comfort women - women/girls abducted to be sexual slaves to the Japanese army - with empathy and di "Instead she swallowed her emotions, until she was able to continue to exist." This book reminded me why historical fiction is one of my favorite genre's. I learned so much about the Korean war and Korean traditions. I also knew nothing about haenyeo, women of the sea, a community of close-knitted female divers and matriarchs. The author is an amazing writer, she tackles the very upsetting topic of comfort women - women/girls abducted to be sexual slaves to the Japanese army - with empathy and dignity. I sometimes find that when I read about really harrowing experiences, far removed from anything in my life, it becomes almost too much and my brain shuts down. In White Chrysanthemum, the author made me feel deeply, but without overwhelming me and causing me to become numb. As the author says in her afterword, we should learn from history so that we don't repeat mistakes previously made - and this book may be specifically about comfort women, but it reminds us about atrocities committed against women in all wars. An exquisitely written, informative and deeply stirring story about the effects of war. Highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Traveling Sister :)

    I have read many, many books about WWII but this is a part of that history that was new for me. Ms. Bracht has composed a novel about the suffering of the Koreans during WWII and it is well researched, well written but entirely heartbreaking. The story is about two sisters, Hana and Emiko who live on an island, Jeju, off of the coast of Korea. The novel opens beautifully with Hana being induced as a “Haenyeo”, a woman who dives expertly to sustain her family. It is a difficult but peaceful life a I have read many, many books about WWII but this is a part of that history that was new for me. Ms. Bracht has composed a novel about the suffering of the Koreans during WWII and it is well researched, well written but entirely heartbreaking. The story is about two sisters, Hana and Emiko who live on an island, Jeju, off of the coast of Korea. The novel opens beautifully with Hana being induced as a “Haenyeo”, a woman who dives expertly to sustain her family. It is a difficult but peaceful life and the sisters have known nothing else. Unfortunately the Japanese also know about these secluded women and have come to the island to forcibly take the young women as their slaves. When Hana sees a Japanese soldier on the shores as she is diving she shows herself, rather than hide, to protect her younger sister Emi from the fate that she fears will befall her. The story is then told from two points of view. Hana’s story is so violent and terrible we don’t know if she will survive. Emi survives both WWII and the Korean war only to live with a feeling of guilt. She believes that she should have gone with Hana when she was taken. It isn’t until her last year of life that her children help her to let go of her guilt knowing that is what her sister would have wanted. I won’t go into the plot because there are many reviews where that is given. This book was very difficult to read but it was a story that needed to be told. As a reader I wish that it would have had a little more balance between the “good and the bad” , something to ease the reader a bit after the long chapters about the horrible abuse, but of course the author had her story that she needed to tell. During the Japanese occupation many Korean women were captured and used as sex slaves in the most unconscionable and brutal way. The women were taken to brothels in Manchuria which were maintained purely for the pleasure of the Japanese military. These women, some as young as 12, were kept in their rooms, barely fed and clothed and repeatedly raped day and night by soldiers. The author states that “some historians believe fifty thousand to two hundred thousand Korean women and girls were stolen, tricked or sold into military sexual slavery”. The author is of Korean descent and has written a wonderful author’s note. In part she states “The list of women suffering wartime rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, commemorate the atrocities against them in museums, and remember the women and girls we lost by erecting monuments in their honor, like the Statue of Peace in Korea”. I am glad that I read the book but I would add a caution that the book is very sexually explicit and perhaps not suitable younger readers. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss, thank you.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    This is a difficult book to read but an important one. It tells the story of the “comfort women”, who the Japanese kidnapped and held as sex slaves to service their soldiers during WWII. “Comfort women” is an offensive misnomer, putting a benign label on the constant sexual and physical abuse of these women. It is told through 2 points of view: Hana is a 16 year old haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. One day in 1943, she is approached by a Japanese soldier, and to protect her younger sister, she This is a difficult book to read but an important one. It tells the story of the “comfort women”, who the Japanese kidnapped and held as sex slaves to service their soldiers during WWII. “Comfort women” is an offensive misnomer, putting a benign label on the constant sexual and physical abuse of these women. It is told through 2 points of view: Hana is a 16 year old haenyeo, a female diver of the sea. One day in 1943, she is approached by a Japanese soldier, and to protect her younger sister, she allows herself to be taken into captivity to be a sex slave to the Japanese army. Fast forward to 2011 and the younger sister, Emi, is in her 70s and has been living with the guilt of her sister’s sacrifice. She has hidden her past from her children, while trying to find out what happened to her sister. Each sister is wonderfully portrayed. Hana is subjected to extreme cruelty, yet she finds the inner strength to survive. Her spirit is never broken. Emi lives with her guilt, yet makes a life for herself. Neither sister ever forgets the other and the memories that they have of each other gets them through the pain that they must live with. Other characters are equally perfectly portrayed, even the ones you hate. The book is beautifully written and tells the story with compassion and sorrow. The scenes of Hana’s captivity are harrowing, yet are so necessary to the story. The sense of place is extraordinary. You are diving with the women as they search for their underwater treasures. You are in the brothel with Hana as she struggles to survive. You can feel her fear and her strength throughout the story. The author’s note at the end of the book gives a lot of historical information about what happened to these women who were kidnapped. To date, Japan has not apologized or given recompense to these women, who are now dying off. The women “believe that Japan wishes to simplify erase the unsightly history of wartime military sexual slavery as though the atrocities never took place and up to two hundred thousand women did not suffer and possibly die in tragic, heartbreaking circumstances.” As hard as this book can be to read at times, I absolutely recommend it. It is a must read for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that this is still occurring in the world. “The list of women suffering wartime rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, commemorate the atrocities against them in museums, and remember the women and girls we lost ...”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    Comfort women. Isn’t that a nice phrase that conjures up the image of a kind mother figure hugging away your sorrow? The reality is anything but comforting. It is estimated that between 50 and 200 THOUSAND Korean women and girls were stolen/taken as sexual slaves during Japan’s colonisation of Korea. Forced every day to be raped again and again by soldiers so these same soldiers can have some “comfort” before or after a battle. The story is told from the viewpoint of Hana and Emi. They come from a Comfort women. Isn’t that a nice phrase that conjures up the image of a kind mother figure hugging away your sorrow? The reality is anything but comforting. It is estimated that between 50 and 200 THOUSAND Korean women and girls were stolen/taken as sexual slaves during Japan’s colonisation of Korea. Forced every day to be raped again and again by soldiers so these same soldiers can have some “comfort” before or after a battle. The story is told from the viewpoint of Hana and Emi. They come from a long line of Haenyeos, women who dive the oceans every day to feed their families. When Hana gets captured by a soldier she sacrifices herself in the belief that she is sparing her little sister, but Emi faces her own horrors left behind in a village that gets destroyed. Both need to learn how to survive in a world that is no longer recognisable as their own. The afterword mentions that there are still 44 South Korean survivors left and the Japanese government has yet to properly acknowledge these atrocities committed during the war. So yes, this is a heart wrenching story, but one that is beautifully told.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    In March 2016 I travelled to Seoul to see Pyeonghwabi (the Statute of Peace) … It was a sort of pilgrimage for me to journey half way across the world to set my eyes on the symbol representing, for me, wartime rape not only of Korean women and girls, but of all women and girls the world over: Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Myanmar, Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palenstine and more. The list of women suffering war time rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s warti In March 2016 I travelled to Seoul to see Pyeonghwabi (the Statute of Peace) … It was a sort of pilgrimage for me to journey half way across the world to set my eyes on the symbol representing, for me, wartime rape not only of Korean women and girls, but of all women and girls the world over: Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Myanmar, Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palenstine and more. The list of women suffering war time rape is long and will continue to grow unless we include women’s wartime suffering in history books, … , museums .. [and] … monuments This book can be seen as the author’s admirable contribution of adding fiction to her own list of areas where the wartime suffering of women should be remembered. Growing up as the daughter of “a South Korean mother and influenced by her community of expat friends” Mary Lynn Bracht has chosen for her debut novel the terrible plight of the Korean “comfort women”. The book alternates in chapters between two sisters – Hana and Emi, both part of a tradition and community of haenyeo (female sea divers) on the Island of Jeju. The two are separated in 1942, when Hana is 16 and Emi 9 when Hana is captured on a beach by a Japanese soldier – Corporal Morimoto: Hana effectively having sacrificed herself to protect her younger sister. Hana’s chapters are set in 1943 and describe her harrowing ordeal – first raped repeatedly by Morimoto and then put to work in a brothel before Morimoto (seemingly an opium dealer with connections among a small family of tent-dwelling poppy growers in Mongolia), and who is increasingly disillusioned with the war effort) escapes with her to Mongolia and leaves her with his contacts (there she receives the only respite from her ordeal) before returning to reclaim her. The only thing that sustains her is her hopes for Emi and memories of her family. Emi’s chapters are set in 2011 – she still dives and although she has both a daughter and a son in Seoul her relationships with them are distant. She visits them and insists on attending (as she does each year when she visits) the Wednesday Demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy – her main motivation being to hope to catch sight or news of her sister. This time coincides with the erection of the Statue of Peace and to her shock she realises that the statue is of Hana. Her subsequent insistence on revisiting the statue, despite her severe ill health (she is suffering from heart failure) finally forces her to open up to her family on her past – both her sister’s capture as a comfort woman, her own shame at the fact she hid while her sister was captured and the further suffering of her parents (and the role their father, her husband played in that suffering) in the 1948 Jeju uprising. The book is unstinting in its portrayal of Hana’s ordeal – with (at least until the Mongolians) no attempt to lessen or mitigate it and no attempt to portray her treatment as anything other than rape and her capturers as anything other than abusers (not least Morimoto who clearly sees himself as her rescuer). The choice of Hana and Emi’s back story works well – giving a strong sense of community and female solidarity and strength, but one that is still helpless in the face of atrocity. The book does have some faults – principally the narration can at times lapse into exposition, and the ending at least for Hana is perhaps too positive. However given its subject matter, approach and generally favourable reviews, I was surprised not to see longlisted for the Women’s Prize and I think it would have merited a place there. 3.5 stars rounded up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    RoseMary Achey

    A heartbreaking tale of two sisters beginning in 1943 as one of the sisters is kidnapped by a Japanese solider in occupied Korea. Forced into sexual slavery she served as a Comfort Woman to members of the Japanese military. The sister left behind spends the remainder of her life looking for her stolen sibling. The writing is good, the story well researched but some passages will be tough for mild mannered book clubbers. An important part of history that many of us are unaware and I thank the aut A heartbreaking tale of two sisters beginning in 1943 as one of the sisters is kidnapped by a Japanese solider in occupied Korea. Forced into sexual slavery she served as a Comfort Woman to members of the Japanese military. The sister left behind spends the remainder of her life looking for her stolen sibling. The writing is good, the story well researched but some passages will be tough for mild mannered book clubbers. An important part of history that many of us are unaware and I thank the author for bringing this to the forefront.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen Kay

    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Korea, 1943. Hana, age 16 has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. South Korea, 2011. Emi, her now elderly sister. As the story progresses, we understand the heart-breaking ordeals each of the sisters endured but they never forgot the love they had for each other. Very good book. This is the first book I've read where I was equally interested and invested in both timelines. 4☆

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Anze

    "You are her protector now, Hana." "Can I rely on you?" her mother asked, her voice stern. "Yes, Mother, I will keep her safe. I promise" "A promise is forever, Hana. Never forget." Such is the conversation that happens between Hana and her mother when Emiko (her liitle sister) is born and one that Hana honors. Korea is under Japananese rule. Hana and her mother are haenyo divers, earning their living by diving on Jeju Island and selling their catch. Emi, stays on the shore while Hana and her mother "You are her protector now, Hana." "Can I rely on you?" her mother asked, her voice stern. "Yes, Mother, I will keep her safe. I promise" "A promise is forever, Hana. Never forget." Such is the conversation that happens between Hana and her mother when Emiko (her liitle sister) is born and one that Hana honors. Korea is under Japananese rule. Hana and her mother are haenyo divers, earning their living by diving on Jeju Island and selling their catch. Emi, stays on the shore while Hana and her mother dive. Upon surfacing one day, Hana sees her sister and a Japanese soldier approaching her. Hana swims as fast as possible to shore and distracts the soldier from Emi and is taken instead. Just sixteen years old, Hana is taken as a "comfort women" for the Japanese army. As Hana is introduced to her new realtity, Emi deals with the weight of her sister's sacrifice. WOW! This work is hands down the best historical fiction book I have read so far this year. I would rate it 10 stars if I could. Heart-wrenching, eye-opening, raw, impactful, poignant and resonant, this book should be read by everyone. Hana is beyond happy when Emiko is born. She swears on that day that she will look after her, protect her. They are warned by their mother to keep their distance from the Japanese and to never be alone with one. That, however, is exactly what Hana witnesses on the beach and springs into action. She knows that she can either save Emi or herself but not both. Hana makes the gut wrenching choice to take Emi's place but it comes at a steep price. Hana is taken as a "comfort woman" to "service" the imperial army. This book had me from the very first page. The prose is magnificent as its somber yet carries a hopeful and resilient tone. Hana's ordeal is brutal and Bracht manages to describe it in an honest manner without being overly graphic and I will not be forgetting it any time soon. Emi's side of the story is just as touching and no less troubling. I am in awe of thsi author. The heart of this book is the bond between Hana and Emi. As a haenyo woman (a female diver) Hana has an iron will, a strong determination and an independent spirit and she draws on all of these strenghths to stand up to the soldier. Though the sisters do not physically interact, their bond is tangible. I love the way in which Bracht drew parallels in their individual journeys and how each used their haenyo spirit to fight and persevere. I truly felt for these sisters, as Bracht made their relationship touching and memorable. At the conclusion, while I was deeply angered about their plights and what had been done to them, I did not pity them. I respected them and admired their courage and tenacity. The backstory for this work is just heartbreaking. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, as many as 200,000 women and girls were taken as "comfort women". Either taken under a guise or snatched from their villages, these women were taken to brothels as sex slaves to "service" the Japanese Imperial Army. Deemed less than human, these women were raped over and over again, several times a day. While women of different countries suffered this way, the majority were Koeans. What is worse though, the survivors could not even speak of their plight for Confucian society valued sexual purity highly. Oddly enough, that is also the reason Korean women and girls were targeted by the Japanese. For many years, the survivors suffered in silence. Kim Hak-Sun was the first to speak up and more followed suit. While its difficult to read about, its important that we do. And most importantly, we must not forget. Thanks to Bracht for bringing their stories to the forefront.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    The true story of Korean 'comfort women' i.e. sex slaves abducted by the Japanese army for the 'servicing' of troops, undoubtedly deserves to be told but this isn't a particularly accomplished or sophisticated novel. In fact, so keen is it to tell a story, that Hana, a 16 year old girl enslaved by a Japanese military officer, spends more time on the run in Manchuria and Mongolia than in the brothel in which she's placed. Hana's story is interspersed with that of Emi in the present, her younger s The true story of Korean 'comfort women' i.e. sex slaves abducted by the Japanese army for the 'servicing' of troops, undoubtedly deserves to be told but this isn't a particularly accomplished or sophisticated novel. In fact, so keen is it to tell a story, that Hana, a 16 year old girl enslaved by a Japanese military officer, spends more time on the run in Manchuria and Mongolia than in the brothel in which she's placed. Hana's story is interspersed with that of Emi in the present, her younger sister, now an old woman, uncovering family secrets and searching for a trace of her lost sister. I'm sorry to sound a bit dismissive: this *is* an important story based on the claims that only came out in 1991 that Korean women were enslaved, raped and forced into prostitution by Japanese occupying forces in the run-up to and during WW2. Of course, this is horrific; of course it needs to be told - but as a novel this feels too simplistic and straightforward a treatment. The author's afterword has a similar naivety about it when it reiterates, again, the platitude that we need to remember history to stop us repeating it - but, as she well knows, women continue to be raped during conflicts in, for example, Rwanda, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq (even as I write this)... the evidence rather shows that we don't learn from history so let's not kid ourselves. So yes, an important, story, but rather disappointing as a novel. Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    White Chrysanthemum is such an incredibly sad and difficult book to read. It is also unforgettable and hard to put down when one has begun to read. Now it's been a while since I finished the book, but I remember how gripping the book was and how much I learned about Korea during and after World War II. I found that the book's story, the sisters' fates touched my soul. Hana being captured by Japanese soldiers and Emi who had to live with the feeling of guilt seeing her sister sacrifice herself for White Chrysanthemum is such an incredibly sad and difficult book to read. It is also unforgettable and hard to put down when one has begun to read. Now it's been a while since I finished the book, but I remember how gripping the book was and how much I learned about Korea during and after World War II. I found that the book's story, the sisters' fates touched my soul. Hana being captured by Japanese soldiers and Emi who had to live with the feeling of guilt seeing her sister sacrifice herself for her. We then get to follow them through their different lives. Hana who struggles to be free, but as she's increasingly losing hope as she is put through ordeal after ordeal. Then, we have Emi who looks back on his life, also that filled with tragedy. The ending, well let's say it's a very strong ending. White Chrysanthemum is an incredibly good book, terribly hard to read, but I promise you will feel enriched after you have read it. Thanks to Bookmark Förlag for the review copy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    Although it is well-written, parts of "White Chrysanthemum" are difficult to read because of its troubling subject matter. The book is about a young Korean woman who was kidnapped by soldiers during the Japanese occupation in 1943, and forced to work as a "comfort woman". Hana was only sixteen-years-old, working as a free diver called a "haenyeo", while her younger sister was on the sandy shore guarding the catch. When a Japanese soldier comes to the secluded beach, Hana distracts him so he does Although it is well-written, parts of "White Chrysanthemum" are difficult to read because of its troubling subject matter. The book is about a young Korean woman who was kidnapped by soldiers during the Japanese occupation in 1943, and forced to work as a "comfort woman". Hana was only sixteen-years-old, working as a free diver called a "haenyeo", while her younger sister was on the sandy shore guarding the catch. When a Japanese soldier comes to the secluded beach, Hana distracts him so he does not see young Emi. Hana sacrifices herself to save her sister, and is taken by soldiers to a military brothel in Manchuria. Hana uses the breathing techniques she learned as a "haenyeo" to try to visualize diving in the sea to withdraw mentally from the sexual abuse. The second half of the book is more optimistic, showing Hana after she's escaped. She finds warmth and kindness with a Mongolian family, but danger still lurks. The book often switches to Emi in 2001 and the memories she is trying to suppress. She's finally able to talk to her grown children about her survivor's guilt, the loss of Hana and her parents, and her difficult marriage. There are many moments of friendship, love, and closure to balance some of the darker aspects of the novel. We are left with a feeling that Emi's children can look forward to a better future in South Korea. Mary Lynn Bracht wrote a well-researched, compassionate book about an important subject. She included an excellent author's note honoring the women who were forced into sexual slavery. War often brings out the worst in people, resulting in horrific abuse in war zones all over the world even today. Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways, the publisher, and the author for a copy of the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    I am a haenyeo. Like my mother, and her mother before her, like my sister will be one day, her daughters too - I was never anything but a woman of the sea. Neither you nor any man can make me less than that. The beautiful 제주도 (Jeju Island) is perhaps my favourite holiday resort, and one I visit annually (more so I suspect in future as my in-laws are building a hotel there), so it was lovely to read a book set there, particularly one focusing on the unique 해녀 (haenyeo), the diving women of the i I am a haenyeo. Like my mother, and her mother before her, like my sister will be one day, her daughters too - I was never anything but a woman of the sea. Neither you nor any man can make me less than that. The beautiful 제주도 (Jeju Island) is perhaps my favourite holiday resort, and one I visit annually (more so I suspect in future as my in-laws are building a hotel there), so it was lovely to read a book set there, particularly one focusing on the unique 해녀 (haenyeo), the diving women of the island, that combine the three elements (삼다도) of the island, 여자, 바람, 돌, women, wind and rocks. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haenyeo) (from the author's website) The novel tells the story of two sisters, brought up, as the opening quote suggests, to become 해녀, Hana (a name that, significantly, works in both Japanese and Korean, albeit with different meanings) and Emi (or Emiko in Japanese). The historic part of the novel is set in 1943 when Hana is 16, during WW2 but also during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945 which dominates the backdrop to a novel. Hana became (presumably around 11) a haenyo is an ancient, and under colonial rules illicit, ceremony: She chants a greeting to the Dragon Sea God, welcoming him to their island, beckoning him to travel through the bamboo gates towards Jeju’s tranquil shores. The sun sparkles on the horizon, a pinpoint of iridescent gold, and Hana blinks at the newness of the coming day. It is a forbidden ceremony, outlawed by the occupying Japanese government, but her mother is insistent upon holding a traditional gut ritual before her first dive as a fully-fledged haenyeo. The shaman is asking for safety and a bountiful catch. As the shaman repeats the words over and over, Hana’s mother nudges her shoulder and together they bow, foreheads touching the wet sand, to honour the Dragon Sea God’s imminent arrival. As she stands, her sister’s sleepy voice whispers, ‘I want to dive, too,’ and the yearning in her voice tugs on Hana’s heart. ‘You will be standing here one day soon, Little Sister, and I will be right beside you to welcome you,’ she whispers back, confident of the future that lies ahead of them. Salty seawater drips down her temple, and she wipes it away with the back of her hand. I am a haenyeo now, Hana thinks, watching the shaman twirl white ribbons in circles along the shore. She reaches for her sister’s small hand. Side by side they stand, listening to the waves tumbling onto the beach. The ocean is the only sound as the small group silently acknowledges her acceptance into their order. When the sun rises fully above the ocean waves, she will dive with the haenyeo in deeper waters and take her place among the women of the sea. Emi is too young to yet become a haenyeo so watches from the sea shore. For safety Hana's Mother, also a haenyeo, trains her always to look back to the shore each time she resurfaces from her lengthy dives, after expelling the remaining air with a sumbi sound (숨비소리), in order to reorientate herself: Look for your sister after each dive. Never forget. If you see her, you are safe. But one day doing so, she sees that her sister isn't safe as a Japanese soldier, who she later finds is called Morimoto, is approaching. She swims to shore and attracts his attention, distracting him from her sister, only for him to kidnap Hana instead as both his personal chattel and as a comfort women for the Japanese troops. This thread of the novel then follows her harrowing journey to Manchuria and the brutalities she is forced to endure. The book effectively uses her resolve as a haenyeo as a way for her too try and cope, often managing to hold her breath for the entire 2-3 minutes an Imperial soldier takes to satisfy himself: With a clear head, she has the power to make herself retreat into her imagination. As the men visit her each day she withdraws from reality and sees herself diving deep beneath the ocean, escaping her surroundings. She learns to hold her breath as a soldier invades her body. Morimoto has a perverse but genuine affection for Hana, and thinks they have a special relationship, whereas she retains nothing but disgust, regarding him as She imagines that's what he is, a black Jeju pig (흑돼지) that lives beneath the latrine behind her house (돗통시) and eats human excrement. And he eventually 'rescues' her from the brothel where she is forced to work, taking her into Mongolia. The present day section of the novel, which alternates, tells of Emi's story. Set in 2011, she is still working even at age 77 as a haenyeo, but still searching for her sister. although the girls' mother held a mourning ceremony for Hana, floating flowers on the sea: It was a chrysanthemum, a symbol of mourning for Koreans. The imperial seal of Japan was the yellow chrysanthemum, a crest symbolising the imperial family’s power. Emi had wondered which came first, the symbol of power or mourning. The novel tells us something of the aftermath of Hana's disappearance, as well as her own guilt that Hana sacrificed herself to protect her, and also touches on the 제주 4·3 사건, the 3 April 1948 uprising on Jeju, when fellow Koreans wreaked more devestation on the islanders than the Japanese occupiers managed. This was also covered in the brave novel by 현기영 (Hyeon Gi-yeong), Aunt Suni (순이삼촌), which I unfortunately read in what the authorative Ktlit website described as "in contention for the worst translation from Korean to English in the last decade" (http://www.ktlit.com/hatred-rage-and-...), although it has been susequently retranslated. But most of the focus is on 2011, as Emi, suffering increasingly poor health, travels to Seoul, both to see her son and daughter, but also to take part in the protests of the former comfort women and to see the statue of the comfort women unveiled outside the Japanese embassy. Bracht also cleverly contrast traditional and modern Korea, with Emi's daughter, now in a same-sex relationship with an American partner, and having earlier rejected her vocation on Jeju: The day she told Emi that she didn’t want to learn to dive was the worst day Emi ever experienced as a mother and yet her reaction was also tinged with pride at her academically gifted daughter, who has gone on to become a professor at the highly prestiguous 이화여자대학교 (Ewha Women's University), of which my wife is incidentally an alumni. This is a moving and powerful novel although I did have two reservations. 1. I generally prefer translated fiction, and this at times felt overly aimed at a UK/US audience with a little too much unnecessary exposition. 2. Bracht so fell in love with her characters that she chose to give them a happy ending (view spoiler)[with Hana finding a home with a Mongolian family, and Emi discovering that the Comfort Women Statue, (in reality not based on any particular person) was, in the novel's world, actually modelled on a picture of Hana. (hide spoiler)] . In practice it would have perhaps been more honest, and more effective, to have this be imagined by Emi rather than a reality. Still - worthwhile. 3.5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nada

    This book should come with a warning sign that says “stock up on tissue boxes before reading.” I would definitely place White Chrysanthemum on a book list for tear-jerkers. It was just so sad. I had to pause a few times, take a breather because I just couldn’t endure the sufferings. A historical fiction, set in Korea 1943 during the WW2, two sisters, Hana and Emi were separated when Hana was taken by the Japanese army. Told alternatively between the sisters, it was really hard for me to choose whi This book should come with a warning sign that says “stock up on tissue boxes before reading.” I would definitely place White Chrysanthemum on a book list for tear-jerkers. It was just so sad. I had to pause a few times, take a breather because I just couldn’t endure the sufferings. A historical fiction, set in Korea 1943 during the WW2, two sisters, Hana and Emi were separated when Hana was taken by the Japanese army. Told alternatively between the sisters, it was really hard for me to choose which sister's story I enjoyed more. Both were heartbreakingly beautiful. I had no idea about the war history between Korea and Japan, and the things Korean people had to deal with at those times. This was such an enlightenment for me and it was one of the things I have loved most about the book. I would warn you though, some events in the book could be defined as quite horrific. As much as I have enjoyed most of it; it was a bit brutal for my taste. I don’t think I handled it well and I don’t think I could read it again and undergo through all those triggered emotions – not all splendid, mind you. But recommend I would. It’s a really captivating story. The writing style is just impeccable and you can’t help but fall in love with the traditions of the Haenyeo women who make their living as divers in the Korean sea.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Author Mary Lynn Bracht is an American of Korean descent. While visiting her mother’s village in Korea, she learned the stories of the “comfort women”. These girls and young women were kidnapped and forced into brothels which served the Japanese military during World War II. Based on the accounts of some of the surviving women, Bracht began to research this topic. Her beautifully written debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Hana and Emi, who are separated when Hana is taken away by Japanes Author Mary Lynn Bracht is an American of Korean descent. While visiting her mother’s village in Korea, she learned the stories of the “comfort women”. These girls and young women were kidnapped and forced into brothels which served the Japanese military during World War II. Based on the accounts of some of the surviving women, Bracht began to research this topic. Her beautifully written debut novel tells the story of two sisters, Hana and Emi, who are separated when Hana is taken away by Japanese soldiers. Alternating between Hana’s story and Emi’s story, Bracht’s powerful, unforgettable, and heart wrenching work of historical fiction sheds light on a shameful part of Japanese military history. It’s a story about family bonds, courage, and the triumph of the human spirit which will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. It was hard for me to put this book down because I wanted to learn the fate of both sisters. Some parts were very difficult to read, and left me with a deep sense of sadness. This outstanding work of historical fiction calls attention to the plight of girls and women during wartime— it’s a call for justice and an indictment of atrocities that are still being perpetrated today in places like Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and other locations.

  25. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    “White Chrysanthemum” opens the book, figuratively, on the dark history of Japanese soldiers who systematically captured and removed Korean (and other enemy) young women to become “comfort women”, or sex slaves during times of political conflict starting as early as 1931. Emperor Hirohito encouraged the “release” of the “life force” that would supposedly carry the Japanese forces to win in war. This novel is not a complicated one to read, as it moves between 1943 and the capture of Hana who is e “White Chrysanthemum” opens the book, figuratively, on the dark history of Japanese soldiers who systematically captured and removed Korean (and other enemy) young women to become “comfort women”, or sex slaves during times of political conflict starting as early as 1931. Emperor Hirohito encouraged the “release” of the “life force” that would supposedly carry the Japanese forces to win in war. This novel is not a complicated one to read, as it moves between 1943 and the capture of Hana who is emblematic of 250,000 women in Asia who simply disappeared into the war machine of Japan, and to 2011, when a statue to memorialise their sacrifice was erected in Seoul. We are given a glancing look at the disruption of the Korean War, the terrible divisions and fear within South Korea over Communism and the eventual growth of the country which we in the West recognise as South Korea. Primarily, the tale is about survival, shame, and the toll of war on women, a hidden aspect in so much of history. I have recently read three exceptional novels which expanded my knowledge of lives under Japanese rule while at war, and the aftermath: PACHINKO, Kay's Lucky Coin Variety and Garden of the Evening Mists. Each will add depth to the somewhat superficial, although heartfelt, treatment of the subject in White Chrysanthemum. Bracht has educated many, I understand, by writing this historical novel and I commend her highly for bringing this subject to bestselling fiction. The story moves quickly and readers will find it compelling. 3.5 stars. Well done historical fiction about a generally little known topic.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    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 comp 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Blodeuedd Finland

    I get the story she wanted to tell, and yes it was good, but the rest was barely ok. Hana gets taken by the Japanese to become a Comfort woman, which is a sex slave. But I never truly had time to connect and every time I felt her plight I was taken away by another POV. Not that I wanted to dwell in the horror of the brothel, but honestly, she was hardly there that long it seemed. If you really wanted to tell a story, make it tough and hard to read. Then there was the omg so boring POV of her siste I get the story she wanted to tell, and yes it was good, but the rest was barely ok. Hana gets taken by the Japanese to become a Comfort woman, which is a sex slave. But I never truly had time to connect and every time I felt her plight I was taken away by another POV. Not that I wanted to dwell in the horror of the brothel, but honestly, she was hardly there that long it seemed. If you really wanted to tell a story, make it tough and hard to read. Then there was the omg so boring POV of her sister in 2011. She is still trying to find Hana and goes to demonstrations *yawns* And nothing happened and we had to suffer through the POV SO much. Then something else happens to Hana and that just seemed, come on. Really? It was just another attempt not to deal with the rough stuff. Life is hard, war is evil and here I should have felt more. It started off well and I was horrified, but then with the constant POV changes I was never in her head enough. You do not need to spare me author. The afterwards if about how rape is still a constant in war and that is true. I just wish this had truly been Hana's story. Oh and the ending sucked too. Ia m torn. I want to give it a 3 for Hana, but 1 for her sister's part. I do not want to give it a two either....no, it annoys me now. It could have been amazing. It fell short.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    Putting this one aside. The third person distant narrative plus lots of tell and very little show is making this read like a textbook. Pachinko is still my number one rec for Korean historical fiction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    Ah, January has been redeemed with this read. Such a heart-breaking, compelling story about the "comfort women" from Korea who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. I believe this is Bracht's debut, and it's absorbing and gut-wrenching.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cam

    This is a must read book!!! Wow During the Japanese occupation in Korea there is believed to have been 50000 to 200000 women and girls stolen by the Japanese military into sexual slavery. There were referred to as comfort women. Many die in foreign lands and there are still comfort women alive to this day that are bringing attention to the wrongs that were done to them by the Japanese. The Japanese try to sweep this act under the rug. This is a story of a young girl Hana who was taken from her ho This is a must read book!!! Wow During the Japanese occupation in Korea there is believed to have been 50000 to 200000 women and girls stolen by the Japanese military into sexual slavery. There were referred to as comfort women. Many die in foreign lands and there are still comfort women alive to this day that are bringing attention to the wrongs that were done to them by the Japanese. The Japanese try to sweep this act under the rug. This is a story of a young girl Hana who was taken from her home and raped repeatedly by Japanese military in a brothel. This is historical fiction that is based off of facts.

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