Monday, December 12, 2016

Copleton, Jackie (A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding)

I can't muster a lot of enthusiasm for this novel of Nagasaki before, during and after the A-bomb. While written from the heart by someone who clearly lived in and loved Japan, this is text engineered to teach, in as palatable a manner as possible, the cultural aspects of a worldwide tragedy.

The problem is, I know this tragedy. You know this tragedy. It's been written of a zillion times. I've been fortunate enough to visit the sister city - Hiroshima - and hear the lessons imparted here in person. Even if you haven't visited Japan, you know enough about the WWII bombings to not want to viscerally re-live that. It wouldn't be possible to ignore what the bomb did to the populace of Nagasaki, but the book tries to enhance the tragedy by putting a doomed romance on top of it. There's nothing I dislike more than a doomed romance. Nobody learns anything worthwhile via that plot device.

Copleton does a decent job creating a twisty plot, which she keeps tweaking until the very end. It just felt vastly artificial - and worse, in many places, superficial - and could not hold my interest.

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