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A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton - Review

Monday, May 23, 2016

As I've done before, this is a review of an adult novel that I feel is also suitable for a younger audience. I recently read this book and loved it, and I think a discerning teenager would be able to enjoy it too. I read Memoirs of a Geisha when I was around 17, and I loved it. This novel is quite similar in tone.

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle for 99p.

What's it about? Amaterasu is an old lady, living in the United States in the 1980s, when a badly scarred middle aged man turns up at her door and tells her he is her grandson. Amaterasu believed that her daughter Yuko and her grandson Hideo were killed in the Nagasaki atomic bombing in 1945, and she and her husband Kenzo left Japan soon after to try to deal with their grief. The man at the door says that he is Hideo and he has letters from his adoptive father for Amaterasu. Through these letters, Yuko's diaries, and Amaterasu's memories, we're told the story of three generations, of Japan before, after, and during the Second World War, of secrets and lies that force a family apart and of the bombing that wasn't like any bombing before and which had such an impact on so many inhabitants of the city. 

I can't really give much more information about the book without giving things away! It's fanstatic, though. It was so worth the 99p I spent! 

What age range is it for? A discerning older teenager could definitely enjoy this, but be aware of the things noted below. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters non-white? Yes, as it's set in Japan. In fact there's some talk about how foreign Amaterasu always feels in the US even after living there for years. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, there's some fairly graphic descriptions of the people who were hurt in the bombing, and their scars afterwards, and I'm pretty sure Amaterasu is suffering from some kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, but it's talked about in very euphemistic terms. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is quite graphic on the day of the bombing and afterwards. 

Are there swear words? No 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely

How many stars? Eight out of ten. 

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