Mary Lynn Bracht “White Chrysanthemum”

“Some historians believe fifty thousand to two hundred thousand Korean women and girls were stolen, tricked or sold into military sexual slavery for and by the Japanese military during Japan’s colonisation of Korea. (…) In that time, countless lives were destroyed and lost by all the countries involved. Of those tens of thousands of women and girls enslaved by the Japanese military, only forty-four South Korean survivors are still alive (at the writing of this book) to tell the world what happened during their captivity, how they survived, and how they returned home. We will never know what happened to the other women and girls who perished before getting the chance to let the world know what they suffered.”

This book is part fiction and part actuality. The writing starts in the past and then alternately switches to the present making the plot increasingly interesting and suspenseful. The two different protagonists (two Korean sisters) are both equally compelling to read yet do not overshadow one another. At a time when speaking your mother tongue meant being taken to the police for interrogation (or even worse…if found guilty of any wrongdoing, then torture and/or death), Koreans had to abide by the Japanese rule and law which included speaking the Japanese language. As everyday life was not already hard enough food and basic necessities were scarce all over the colonised territories. Emi and Hana’s hardships to survive are illustrated in such a realistic manner bringing more light to how the (comfort) women were treated then and now.

However “White Chrysanthemum” is not exactly ’light’ reading as it depicts graphic violence and may require a more intricate understanding of the socio-political background between South Korea and Japan. The topics discussed in this book still remain up to this day controversial and embarrassing but owing to social movements and justice campaigns this is slowly but steadily changing the opinions people have of comfort women (so too has done the publication of this book). The author has chosen the perfect title which befits the story and symbolizes the bonds between family.


Vintage, 2018

Check from the e-catalogue ESTER

Birgit Kirsipuu
Sääse branch library

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