Updated: Aug 21, 2022
Historical Fiction | War | Literary Fiction
'Sometimes all you had to do to get someone to talk was to be silent.'
TW: This book does cover very distressing topics from sexual violence to rape so please do not pressure yourself to read this one.
I've found myself becoming increasingly more interested in historical fiction. The cover of this book was not only stunning, but the synopsis grabbed my attention. This book explores the events of the Comfort Women during the Second World War. I have already studied this particular issue in great depth, so I was glad to finally read a book, although fiction, that acknowledges this period of history.
For those who may be unaware, 'Comfort Women' is a euphemism that referred to the hundreds of thousands of young girls and women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. These girls came from all across Asia, from China, Korea, Singapore to the Philippines. It is a piece of 20th-century history that Japan is still reluctant to fully acknowledge which is why I think books such as this one are so important. Many of these girls were either abducted or told by Japanese forces that they were being hired to work in factories.
The topic of this book is clearly very distressing. As I was already familiar with the history, I was reading with a sense of dread of what was to befall the character Wang Di. I thought the author did a very good job of reflecting the horrific reality of these war crimes committed by the Japanese during the Second World War. The writing was beautiful and I genuinely felt so vexed and upset for Wang Di. Even though she was fictional, the story represents one of the most horrendous acts of mass sexual violence and yet, it is barely talked about.
If you are a fan of books such as Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and The Mountains Sing by Nguyên Phan Quê Mai, then this is a book I would recommend checking out. However, as I have already stressed, the topic of this book is very distressing so please be mindful of this before you decide to read it. Although I found this book to be difficult, I personally viewed it as an invaluable book - heartbreaking, unique and powerful.
When the Japanese invade Singapore, life for Wang Di changes forever. She is suddenly forced into the back of a truck and taken away from her family to a Japanese military rape camp. Now the year is 2000, and her mind is still plagued by the trauma of those horrific thirty-six months.
It only takes twelve-year-old Kevin to stumble upon a confession from his dying Grandmother that the truth finally comes out...
I would highly encourage you to research and learn about this piece of history. There is a an interview by Asian Boss with Kim Bok-Dong about her experience. I will link it below but again, this video may be distressing so please be mindful of this before watching
Thank you for reading!