This book is published on 2nd June 2016 in paperback by Transworld Publishers. My thanks to them for my review copy and inviting me onto the blog tour.
After World War Two, during the American occupation, citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means”. So write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters during this time, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration. The Translations of Love delves into a world where letters are salvation.
Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.
When weeks pass and they hear nothing from Matt, the girls take matters into their own hands, venturing into the dark and dangerous world of the black market and dancehalls. They're unaware that their teacher, Kondo Sensei, moonlights as a translator of love letters, and that he holds the key to Sumiko's safe return.
I am sure that there a great many books out there fiction and non fiction that are about the Post War Occupation of Japan. I ashamedly have not read any of them, so therefore my knowledge of this is very limited. It didn't impede my reading of the story, in actual fact I think I was able to gain something more from it. I also love books with and about letters.
This is a book that buzzes along with real heart and a pulse. A book where you can immerse yourself in another culture and another time entirely. This is a testament to the quality of the writing here. This book is engaging and consuming with wonderfully written, intriguing characters. There is a vast array of Characters all different but the main ones are Fumi, Aya, Matt and Kondo Sensei.
We have the story of the friendship between Fumi and Aya. Aya has come to Japan from America, after the war. Her and her father were forcibly repatriated, she feels that she is in a foreign land, a land where she doesn't fit in. Fumi was told by Kondo Sensei, their teacher to befriend and help Aya and although at first a burden the two teenage girls soon become friends.
Matt Matsumoto is a great character, a driven and determined man, who has seen his own sadness and tragedy. He is employed by General MacArthur to translate letters from Japanese to English. Letters that are supposed to assist in the bringing about of Democracy.
Kondo Sensei is the girls teacher, although I felt that he was a little disillusioned with the way things were. He tries to make extra money in his spare time by translating letters in an alleyway, these are mainly from Japanese ladies to the American GI's.
Fumi and Aya embark upon a search for Fumi's missing sister Sumiko, here the threads of the story begin to come together. Although the girls stumble across different situations the story still remained real and very much believable.
The story is told from various viewpoints with several different threads of the story ultimately coming together. This book is moving and the author has brought about vivid characters that for all they have been through have a toughness and a sense of hope about them.
A story of friendship, kindness, hope and love. Well written, very real and a joy and a pleasure to read. I recommend it very much. The landscapes and the characters are still floating around in my head. I am not normally one to read historical fiction but this book was very accessible and actually quite unforgettable.
Lynne Kutsukake is a third generation Japanese Canadian. She has studied Japanese Literature and for many years worked as a Librarian at the University of Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications and The Translation of Love is her first novel. She lives in Toronto.
She is on Twitter @LynneKutsukake
Please have a look at the other stops on the blog tour...