A beautiful but eerie book that teaches us all that our future does not always have to shaped by the mistakes of our past.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good for: People happy to reflect on another’s old memories, whether they be good or bad.
Not Good for: People wanting a happy feel good read.
Author: Christine Piper
Dr Ibaraki is a Japanese doctor who finds himself in an internment camp in South Australia during WWII in the 1940s. As a Japanese citizen on Australian soil in WWII, he is considered an enemy of the state and is unceremoniously thrown into the camp. How he got there and why he is so far from his homeland is gradually revealed, by Piper, like the peeling back of layers of an onion. We learn about his former life as a promising researcher in Japan, his beautiful wife, his recent move to work in remote Australia and his life in the internment camp. But what set off this unusual chain of events that saw him leave his homeland for Australia remains mysterious right until the very end.
This book stretches across three different time periods and Piper does an extraordinary job of switching back and forth between the time periods, while still maintaining mystery and continuity. Chapter by chapter, more and more is revealed about Dr Ibaraki’s character, relationships and memories. By the end we fully understand how his painful memories and personal charateristics have brought him to the present day. But the book is so much more than this. Interwoven into Dr Ibaraki’s story are the themes of Japanese culture, racism, war and what it means to be a “good” doctor. Being a doctor myself, I found all the medical dilemmas faced by Dr Ibaraki and his reactions to them to be very realistic. Piper explores all these themes with sensitivity and understanding. I highly recommend this book and it is more than deserving to be the winner of the 2014 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.