In the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha and The Piano Teacher, a heart-wrenching debut novel of family, forgiveness, and the exquisite pain of love
When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?
My thanks to Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton.
What can I say about the novel… I loved it, and then again there was something that didn’t quite click. I’ve shared with you, that lately I have developed I love for historical drama… so A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding was quite up my alley if you know what I mean, but there was something wrong with it. I struggled to pin it down, but a couple of weeks after finishing the book I understood what it was.My biggest complaint was the author’s decision to make our narrator, Amaterasu, omniscient, all-knowing and able to describe exactly how other people felt, exactly what they saw and what they were thinking, simply through reading a few letters and diary entries. If Copleton wanted to write about all the characters’ thoughts, then she simply shouldn’t have written this in first person, in my opinion. It makes Amaterasu’s account seem disingenuous or dishonest, and I think this is the main reason I failed to connect with her family’s story as much as I’d hoped.
If we go past that I loved the style this book was written in and the way the story gradually came together. In places this was rather an emotional read, but overall a compelling story that felt very real. Although in places it was a bit too melodramatic for my taste, but then again… once in a while such guilty pleasures are to endured. You know what, I will not attempt to spoil it for you guys… it is a very gentle, lovely story. It will definitely touch your heart it a unique way, and I am sure that there will be people who’d love it and those who’d pick at the details, but if you happen to read it at the right set of mind I am sure it’ll be a time well used. Once in a while we need a read for the soul.