5th May 2016
A story of a mother’s immeasurable love which is set against the background of overwhelming family secrets and devastating tragedy.
Firstly I have to say that I find the cover quite stunning. I love the peeping Geisha which reminds me of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, which is one of my all time favourite stories.
When the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 Amaterasu Takahashi lost everything that was precious to her, including her daughter Yuko and her grandson Hideo. Many years later, Amaterasu is a widow living in America when a young man claiming to be Hideo shows up on her doorstep, but Amaterasu has too many demons in her past and believing this person is who he says he is means that Amaterasu must revisit everything which she has, so very painfully, hidden away.
Within the story there is much to take in and the author succeeds at observing different perspectives, by the use of diary entries, so that we get the thoughts of those who are not present. The story is powerful in its simplicity but also quite anguished and harrowing in places, particularly in the early descriptions of the fall out after the atomic bomb, and of the destruction of Nagasaki, which shows very clearly the turmoil and agonised suffering which went on in the aftermath of such powerful destruction. Amaterasu’s life, and that of her daughter, is dissected in fine detail which emphasises the significance of the mother-daughter relationship and of how the burden of an illicit love affair can send shock waves reverberating throughout time.
I especially enjoyed reading the snippets of quotations which head each chapter; they are quite intriguing and for me, became an integral part of the story telling.
Best Read with...Steamed dumplings from a street seller and cool glasses of sake
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is former journalist Jackie Copleton's debut novel and is inspired by her time living in the beautiful city of Nagasaki in the 1990s. It is a Richard and Judy book club pick for summer 2016, was long-listed for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016 and was a Radio 2 Book Club pick in 2015.
My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and to Lovereading.co.uk for the invitation to read this book as part of the Love Reading Review panel