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CAGE ON THE SEA

An appealing historical novel of World War II.

In Ohno’s debut novel inspired by true events, an American soldier must convince a group of Japanese holdouts on a remote island that World War II has ended.

In 1991, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James B. Johnson is enjoying a pleasant retirement in Florida after a long career in the military; however, he finds himself haunted by an incident that occurred several years after the end of World War II. In the spring of 1944, two Japanese supply ships, the Hyosukemaru and the Akebonomaru, embarked on a journey from Yokohama, Japan, to Truk, part of the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific. But as the ships approached the island of Anatahan, they faced an American air attack. Survivors from the two ships made their way to the island; a group from a third ship, the Kaihomaru, soon joined them. With the war still raging and little hope of rescue, the group, which included soldiers, sailors and a woman named Kazuko Higa, struggled to survive under harsh conditions. Years passed, and in 1950, the group was still there, unwilling to accept that the war was over and Japan had surrendered. After U.S. forces’ attempts to convince the holdouts failed, Johnson crafted a plan that he hoped would encourage them to leave. Ohno’s engaging narrative offers a complex portrait of both Johnson and the castaways, alternating the U.S. soldier’s story with those of the Japanese survivors. Through extended flashbacks, letters and military reports, the novel explores multiple perspectives, helping readers understand the reasons why the survivors remained. Giles Murray’s crisp translation from the Japanese keeps the frequent shifts in time and perspective clear and understandable. Although Johnson’s memories provide the novel’s basic framework, the heart of the story belongs to Kazuko, the only female survivor. Her story is harrowing but compelling, as she’s forced by circumstances to use any available means to survive.

An appealing historical novel of World War II. 

Pub Date: March 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0983951384

Page Count: 425

Publisher: Bento Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2014

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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