Wednesday, 18 January 2017
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton
Now a widow living in America, she believes that one man was responsible for her loss: a local doctor who caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter.
When a man claiming to be Hideo arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to revisit the past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance and the realisation that if she had loved her daughter in a different way, she might still be alive today.
Call me fickle but I was first attracted to this book by it's beautiful cover. We all know that we should not make a judgement of a book on this basis but on this occasion I was correct to jump to this conclusion.
Set in Japan in 1945 the author allowed us glimpses of a time of peace as well as the destruction of Nagasaki and it's people following the dropping of the atomic bomb. Ms. Copleton, who lived in Nagasaki, demonstrates this experience of her time there by immersing the reader in the culture of Japan. This is enhanced by definitions of a Japanese word at the beginning of each chapter.
This is an affecting story of the horrors of war, the devastating effect it has on families and the way in which they deal with those circumstances. An excellent work of historical fiction imposed upon a time and place in history that Japan and the world will never forget.
Longlisted for the Bailey's Prize for Fiction, this is Ms. Copelton's first full length novel and suggests that she is an author to watch. I would gladly read further novels that she writes. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction and those interested in the interaction of human relationships.
Publisher: Windmill Books
Jackie Copleton lived in Nagasaki and Sapporo for three years, where she taught English, before returning to Scotland and becoming a journalist. This is her first novel and featured in the Simon Mayo Book Club on BBC Radio 2. She has also contributed to collections of short stories.