Friday, 23 August 2013

The Buddha in the Attic - Review

The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka

It's not quantity. It is quality.

I distinctly remember reading my first 'big' book. One that was more than 100 pages. One that would give me street cred. It was Diana by RF Delderfield. I still have it in paperback for purely sentimental reasons, not for any great literary achievement. It took a long time to read but I think I enjoyed reading it.

Most of the books I read seem to be at least an inch thick. Why does a book need to be 300 plus pages? Can you even find a book less than 300 pages on the WHSmith bestseller shelves?

One book that should be there is The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. (129 pages).

From the first line on the first page I was absorbed into the lives of the mail order Japanese brides shipped to the States in the early 20th century. With only a photo of their future husbands, and a few possessions from home in a cardboard case they set sale. This book takes us with them. Some happily. Some terrified. Some abused from the start. Some quietly and some obediently. Each bride, each life, is given a voice in the collection of voices captured in this book. The writing is beautifully simple and evocative, narrated by the brides collectively as one voice. From marriage, to the marital bed, to child birth, to teenagers, we are privileged to listen to their stories right up to the point when they are quietened, freighted to who knows where, away from the coast where they might be helping the enemy. Each life is a battle and precious for the story that it tells. I wish there were more stories to tell. I would happily have carried on listening past the 129th page.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book for review for the BritMums Book Club. Join in the discussion here.


  1. I'm still reading it. The book really highlights aspects of their lives that I otherwise hadn't thought about or occurred to me.

  2. I totally agree about the thickness issue of books nowadays - it is as if the thicker the book the more value we got from it...!x

  3. I love that you have made a really good point about quality not quantity - so true! x

  4. Agree re: quality not quantity. There is a distinct lack of originality in formats at the moment and this completely overthrows the feeling that you need to read loads of pages to feel satisfied.


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