S He meets his wife Sophie, whose story is also told, and we are led on this emotional roller coaster as all of us try to make sense of this along with the characters One of the most disturbing revelations to me was that they actually had debated whether to drop the bomb on a city or a military target, or over some barren area Emiko says at one point about Anton, I wondered if I shouldn t walk down and confess that I could never understand what he d done, and therefore not free him from the impossible burden of explanation This sums up how I feel about this incident The ending leaves one feeling greatly impacted by this emotional story which should be made compulsory reading in schools.
What would be the most extreme, life changing experience you could have Losing half your face to disfigurement from the atomic bomb surely ranks at the top of the list In The Ash Garden, Dennis Bock explores this predicament from the perspective of a Japanese woman named Emiko An innocent child when defaced during the war, she is now a celebrated filmmaker who looks back on her life using her scars as a kind of lens for trauma and memory My full review can be read at www.
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com Reissued To Mark The Th Anniversary Of Hiroshima, The AshGarden Is A Searing Novel Of Three Lives Shattered By War, From A Writer TheGlobe And Mail Called Canada S Next Great Novelist Winner Of The Japan Canada A Globe Best Book Of Finalist For The IMPAC Award The books In CanadaFirstNovel Award The Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize And The Commonwealth Writers Prize For Best Book Caribbean And Canada Region If I could give this book zero stars, I would I absolutely hated it This book was so confusing and slow at the same time even finishing three pages felt like a victory Because it jumped around so much, I never really understood the chronological order of the events, because times and dates were never really specified I also strongly disliked two of the three main characters because their relationship bothered me, they just did not seem to mesh well together I felt like this book was supposed to have some sort of deeper level that I missed, because clearly people and critics love it, judging by the stellar reviews and the award nominations but I just do not see it.
3 stars for now i finished this book last night and have spent all day today trying to figure out what to say about it bock s writing is so lovely it s truly elegant and beautiful and he handles some heavy issues of morality very well, reflecting the complicated nature of being human in an often inhumane world given the chaos and life changing nature of the events bock takes on, the restraint is impressive bock is quite subtle in his examinations, and he levels no judgments or opinions in presenting his characters and their actions in the back of the edition of my book is a wonderful interview with bock in it, he is asked about the appeal of moral complexity as a writer his responseAs a reader I ve always been drawn to Big Question books that might introduce certain questions to the reader s mind but do not claim to provide answers to those questions I love a good mystery, but not in the conventional sense of that word the mystery of right behaviour, moral choice, responsible action I m put off by novels that pretend to answer the questions they raise There can t be answers not sincere or meaningful answers to the questions of moral action raised in a great book A serious writer, in my mind, attempts to expose the flip side to any commonly held belief It s a shell game of sorts, with each shell containing, or seemingly so, the seed of truth Point to it with anything resembling conviction or certainty and you will be proven wrong That being said, a novel isn t a game It doesn t try to cause the reader to stumble, but in resisting an easy answer regarding a character s choices the reader might find himself in the confusing position of simultaneously loving and hating a character, his choices, his beliefs For me a novel is at its best when it brings contradiction to the surface of a character s life and when those contradictions and confusions are highlighted by virtue of a dramatic conflict between characters In exposing those contradictions by the right positioning of character, setting and drama, you approach the heart of what it is to be human There is, in this world, instead of the simple black and white universe of poorly imagined fiction, and infinite variety of greysi loved this and i do feel bock succeeds really well in writing about the moral complexity of both anton b ll and emiko and sophie too but there is something that is tripping me up, something that felt a bit flat which i can t quite put my finger on the novel started out very strongly for me and i was completely captivated by emiko s story line anton b ll was an equally interesting character a scientist who escaped germany in order to secure better work in his field, ending up an integral player on the manhattan project sophie is the third character a hungarian german escapee the story of these three non combatants moves from character to character, back and forth in time, from the day the bomb was dropped on hiroshima, to a time nearly 50 years later all three lives are connected and fundamentally changed by war, and by each other.
there is also the aspect of illness handled in the novel i will hide this bit because the nature of the illness, though presented early on, is a bit of a slow reveal view spoiler sophie wife of anton b ll lives with lupus it was mostly handled well by bock, so i suspect this disease is something he has familiarity with in his own life i have lupus so encountering the issue in fiction is interesting to me, and not something that happens a lot i feel a bit stuck on the way sophie s lupus was portrayed, even though i felt it was mostly okay my yeah but moments 1 her diagnosis happened very quickly which would be unusual for the time 1940s 2 it felt like this portrayal of lupus is to represent lupus completely, which would not be accurate bock presents one form of lupus only, and maybe even mislabels it i have to reread this one bit he spells out the SLE diagnosis in fact, much time is spent addressing sophie s discoid lupus or CLE or DLE i do believe that these forms make one susceptible to SLE and sophie, who dealt with only skin issues for many years, she had the malar rash only once, and then had the plaques lesions and scarring on her body did develop serious kidney involvement but i feel like this was a confusion in the plot though it may very well make no matter to another reader unfamiliar with lupus and it may very well be an accurate portrayal when the diagnosis was given to sophie in the 1940s we have come a long way in the field since then so i am also prepared to be outright wrong on this point hide spoiler read just as was pub d in 03 Still remember it as a favorite and would reread in a heartbeat.
Often enough we are confronted with historical facts and are asked to explain our role in them Where were you when or What did your family do during is an often enough phrase during either classroom lectures or dinner parties But the answers are not that simple for many of us We didn t know that action x was going to cause y or family member believing something way back when would be socially unacceptable for us today That is the conflict Dennis Bock tries to show in his novel The Ash Garden Link to my complete review
I didn t think I d enjoy The Ash Garden by Canadian author, Dennis Bock The subject was definitely depressing and it took me a bit to get into the flow of the story, which jumped from the past to the present and back again But as I settled to it, it quickly drew me in.
The main theme of the story is the bombing of Hiroshima during WWII with the first atom bomb The story revolves around 3 people Emiko, a Japanese girl who was a child in Hiroshima when the bomb explodes and has her life turned on its end Anton Boll, a German scientist who had escaped from Germany and was involved in the bomb construction Sophie, Anton s wife, an Austrian woman, half Jewish, whose parents sent her from her home to America to escape the terrors of the Nazi regime towards their community.
Emiko is disfigured by the bomb and her family destroyed and she is part of a group of girls who are sent to America for plastic surgery Anton goes to Hiroshima immediately after the bomb to work for the Manhattan project in seeing the effects of the bombing and radiation Sophie, who has her own physical limitations, tries to resolve her life with Anton and her desire to find out what happened to her parents.
It s a much deeper story than this premise and the journeys each person travels during the course of the story is fascinating Their links to each other become apparent as the story progresses and there are a few surprises as well It is a depressing story but still excellent and worth reading 4 stars Sometimes, chance encounters with books lead to discoveries you wouldn t want to miss Finding The Ash Garden has been one such experience It is a superbly written, subtle, yet complex human interest story placed against the backdrop of historical events Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the atom bomb s devastating short term impacts reverberate through the story The lingering long term effects, politically and emotionally, connect the three protagonists the German scientist, having left Europe to participate in the bomb s development, the documentary film journalist who survived the attack as a child, seriously scarred, and the scientist s wife, a refugee from the Nazi regime Bock succeeds in creating a deeply moving portrait of the three people whose lives are dramatically connected through these events They also draw them to each other, almost despite themselves.
Each section is written in the distinct voice of one of the protagonists, thereby allowing each to express his or her perspective on the events over a period of fifty years The narrative moves between present and past, each episode providing another building block for us to understand their lives complexities We are exposed to their emotional conflicts and follow the often detached scrutiny of their respective behaviours and attitudes Their recollections of the historical events naturally differ, so do their assessments of their human emotions, whether love, betrayal, guilt, shame, selfishness or atonement Yet, the story builds gently and none of what is shared overwhelms the reader Bock writes with great empathy for the characters, exploring their personalities without passing judgement on their action or inaction at the different stages of their lives.
Bock has described his interest in writing fiction as raising big questions of human society Major topics that escape clear black and white answers For example, the scientist joined the Los Alamos team because building the atom bomb was the only way to end the war Yet, during his research mission to Hiroshima to scientifically assess the bomb s impact , he is exposed to the human suffering of innocent civilians In The Ash Garden , Bock proves himself a master in exploring the grey zones between right and wrong, innocence and responsibility The narrative moves towards the anticipated and necessary confrontation between the victim and the scientist, in her view co responsible for her suffering The outcome is everything but clear cut or obvious, but consistent within the story and the intentions of the author A deeply moving and beautiful book with important messages for us all.
The books concentrates on two major characters You have Anton, a German scientist who escaped his native land in the 40s and moved to America where he helped build the atomic bomb that would later destroy Hiroshima Then you have Ekimo, a Japanese woman who s face was burnt by the bomb and who has lived in misery ever since Both their lives are entwined in ways than one as the book tries to show how much the war affected their existence They are both still haunted by the horrors of that day.
The characters are highly believable and very well drawn out The only problem is that the book sometimes tries to dig too deep into their lives A lot of unnecessary back story is given in order to make these character seem real There is one long section where Anton looks at young kids playing in the snow which is very beautiful but which seems totally out of place in this book It s as though Bock is trying too hard to give his characters a realistic back story.
The story is very similar to the styles of Michael Ondaatje or Alice Munro But Bock still has to find the amazing power these two authors are able to convey through their prose The Ash Garden is a good first novel, just not a perfect one.