As World War II looms, three young people face internment, violence, and shattered futures.
Tanabe (The Gilded Years, 2016, etc.) elegantly shifts among the storylines of Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, Leo Hartmann, the son of an Austrian-Jewish banker, and Christian Lange, the son of a German-born steel baron. Accustomed to a lifestyle of refined, cosmopolitan civilities, Emi has lived in Japan, London, Berlin, Vienna, and Washington, D.C. An accomplished pianist, her talents beckon Leo through the hallways of their Catholic school in Vienna. Enchanted, he brings Emi home to meet his mother, who encourages her to play for them every day on their priceless, hand-painted Steinway. Rising anti-Semitism throughout Europe, Hitlerjugend in the classrooms, and Hitler’s Anschluss into Austria threaten their love affair, and the Hartmanns must flee for their lives. Soon Emi follows her father to America. Heartbroken and surviving on letters sent with hope but arriving late if at all, Emi and Leo try to carry on, waiting to reunite after the war. Washington, however, proves unsafe, as well, once Japan allies with Germany, so Emi and her family are detained, yet illness prevents Emi from quick deportation. Instead, she and her mother find themselves shuttled into internment camps. Meanwhile Christian’s affluent family is woken in the middle of a Wisconsin night and detained, as well, eventually ending up at the same internment camp as Emi. A shocking accident lands Christian’s mother in the hospital, where he meets Emi, who has been working as a nurse’s aide, and love blossoms. Yet again, politics interrupt life, sending both lovers into the chaos of the Pacific theater. Tanabe gracefully entwines these lives, deftly depicting the psychological devastation of thwarted futures and poignantly sketching the shifts into cherishing the present moment.
A gorgeously sweeping tale of the transcendence of love.