White Chrysanthemum is a painfully honest, but beautifully written, tale about what war really means for the “little” people dragged into it. Throughout this read it felt as if I was reading a diary or biography; it felt so real & broke my heart a million times. Stories like these, about World War 2, are the ones that the wider world do not often hear about – but we really, really need to.
I was sent an advanced copy of this book by Random House UK; Vintage Publishing in return for an honest review.
This book contains rape, murder, human suffering, PTSD & other war-related themes.
This is the first review I have written for a while so if it’s a bit rubbish, please don’t take that as a reflection of this book; because this book was phenomenal, for so many different reasons.
White Chrysanthemum is a story about two girls; two sisters; who are torn away from each other during World War 2… the solider that splits the girls up ends up having a detrimental effect on both of their lives & the truth is, neither of them ever truly recover from what he does to them. Throughout the whole read I prayed for a happy ending, but war isn’t happy, & so this book doesn’t end with a fairytale-ending – instead it has a very real ending, a very believable one, but also a very sad one.
As I said in my introduction, this book broke my heart a million times & that is because of it’s heartbreaking tale, but also because of how powerful the writing was, & how much Mary managed to pull me into the past. I read a lot of war-time books &, as you all probably know by now, I read them in order to learn, & this book taught me a lot of things that I didn’t previously know about how Korean women were treated during World War 2. Now, I wasn’t ignorant of the fact that the Japanese soldiers put Korean women through some horrific & unforgivable things during World War 2, but this book is written in a way that the experiences of the two main characters, Hana & Emi, become personal to you; so they’re a lot more heartbreaking than you first think they will be. Mary’s writing is some of the most emotive I have ever read & this resulted in me feeling a very deep connection to both Hana & Emi – they became very real to me & I felt like I knew them.
Despite this book being a work of fiction, it also tells a very true story about the horrors that the comfort women of World War 2 experienced. Whilst reading this book, you are unable to avoid the truth of what went on in Asia during the Second World War & it will, undoubtedly, turn your stomach & shatter your tear ducts. Mary has made sure to include a lot of fact in her fiction, fact about the distant past & about the not-so-distant past, so readers aren’t just told a story, but taught a history lesson as well. Mary also makes sure to remind her readers that the things that the Korean comfort women experienced didn’t end for them at the end of the war; instead they haunted them their entire lives, & there are still people alive today who are being haunted by those atrocities.
I cried a lot whilst reading this book, but nonetheless, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year; it’s jam-packed with emotion & history, much more than I ever expected it would be, & Mary has done an incredible job with it. Our school history lessons should include more history like this, because it would be a crime to forget what women like Hana & Emi went through.