Historical fiction, set in Korea 1943 during the WW2. A tale of two sisters, Japanese soldiers kidnap one and force her into sexual slavery. The other spends her life looking for her.  White Chrysanthemum By Mary Lynn Bracht - #historical-fiction, #reading, #books to read, #books

White Chrysanthemum

By Mary Lynn Bracht

Book Review:

I’ve read a lot of World War II books, most detailing abominable acts against humanity. So, I was a bit surprised that I did not know about the events happening in this book. Be warned; this story portrays much evil and suffering, unthinkable things that happened when Korea was under Japanese occupation during WWII.

Hana is just 16 years old when Japanese soldiers kidnap and force her to become a “comfort woman” in an army brothel. She and the others, some as young as 12 years old, are raped and abused over and over every day. Emi, Hana's sister is left behind and spends her life in torment, searching for her sister. I also loved reading about the haenyeo, women divers in South Korea, who prided themselves on being strong and independent. I am always in awe of strong, brave , women.

This is a gripping and important story that needs to be told; so much to learn.

Book Club Talking Points:

During the Japanese occupation, many Korean women were captured and used as sex slaves. The book is beautifully written, but deals with some tough issues. Aside from the mental and physical abuses the kidnapped women suffered, there is also the family left behind and how they cope with the pain and grief of not knowing the fate of their loved ones. The traditions and strength of the Haenyeo women is also noteworthy as is the despicable acts of the soldiers.
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*Discussion Questions

1. The narrative alternates between Hana and Emi. Did you connect to one woman more than the other? If so, why?

2. What does being a haenyeo mean to Hana? How does this identity inspire her throughout the novel? Had you heard of the haenyeo before reading White Chrysanthemum?

3. Were you surprised by the way the Japanese treated Koreans during World War II? Has your understanding of the war changed after reading this novel?

4. When we meet Emi, she often dreams of a girl swimming in the ocean (p. 63). Why does Emi feel haunted by Hana? How does Emi remember her sister, and how does this relationship change throughout the novel?

5. Why do you think Morimoto takes such an interest in Hana? How does his interest hurt her? Does it help her in any way? What did you think would happen to Morimoto?

6. When the novel begins, Emi still lives on Jeju Island. What does Jeju Island mean for each sister? In what ways does the island change over the decades, and in what ways does it stay the same? How would this story be different if it was set somewhere else?

7. How does Emi’s relationship with her son and daughter change over the course of the novel? Why do you think she hasn’t told them about her family? Why do you think she changes her mind? Do you agree with her decision to tell them about her past?

8. Is Keiko a friend to Hana? How does Hana’s time in the brothel change her? How do the women she meets there support one another?

9. Were you surprised by how the Mongolians treated Hana? Why or why not? How does Hana change as she spends time in their camp?

10. Had you heard about the One Thousand Wednesdays gatherings before reading this novel? What do these gatherings mean to Emi? What does she find there?

11. How did you feel about the ending? Were you surprised?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)

Book Club Talking Points:
During the Japanese occupation, many Korean women were captured and used as sex slaves. There are many issues of pain, grief, shame, survivor’s guilt and sorrow that go along with this tragedy of war.
Book Summary
For fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

South Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.
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