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Friday, June 22, 2007
Sword & Blossom
Pagnamento, Peter, and Momoto Williams. Sword & Blossom. In 1982 retired school teacher Tesuko Suzuki discovered letters saved by her mother-in-law and dating back to 1904. Over 800 letters survived from her mother-in-law's correspondence with Arthur Hart-Synod, and these letters were the inspiration for the book that relates the love of affair of Arthur Hart-Synod and Masa Suzuki.
More than just a love story, these pages present insights into the world of Japan in 1904 during the early years of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; commentary on the British military--its traditions and transformation; changing attitudes toward Japan; the Japanese war with Russia; the Manchurian campaign; British colonialism; WWI and its horrors; treatment of the wounded; the rise of Sinn Fein; the commandeering and destruction of Arthur's family home Ballymoyer House in the "Anglo-Irish War"; the design and fitting of artificial limbs; the effects of the 1918 flu pandemic that resulted in 25 million deaths worldwide and over 257,000 deaths in Japan; the destruction of Tokyo by the 1923 earthquake - 44% of Tokyo was leveled after the fires finally burned out and 90% of Yokohama was destroyed by the earthquake, fires, and tsunami; the Japanese war in China; the rise of Japan as a military state and the end of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; Japan during WWII - propaganda and hardships; the fire bombing of Tokyo in which more than 100,000 were killed - more than died in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki in the atom-bomb raids; and the Japanese surrender.
A remarkable story, skillfully written and researched, Sword & Blossom provides a private view of two individuals from different cultures and the daily details of their lives, set in the broader perspective of the historic events of the first half of the 20th century.
The more I think about this book, the more impressed I am at the detail, personally and historically. Arthur and Masa's affair is not a Romance in novelistic terms, but a glimpse into the private lives of a military man and the woman he loved through his letters (Masa's letters were destroyed in WWII) -- ordinary people who lived through extraordinary events.
I found an interview with Momoto Williams here. Love of Reading.com is a recent discovery with some great features for book lovers and where you will find some familiar guest bloggers including Debra Hamel and Iliana from Bookgirl's Nightstand.
Nonfiction. Biographical/memoir/history. 2007. 310 pages.