White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht – Book Review by Liza
This is the story of two sisters who were violently separated by war. The story is told by Hana in 1943 and by Emi as an old woman in 2011.
16 Year old Hana has only ever known living under Japanese rule. Hanna and her family live on the tiny Island of Jeju, a province of Korea, but may only speak Japanese and are prohibited from speaking, reading or writing in their native Korean.
Hana and her mother are haenyeo which are women divers who dive deep into the ocean to cut abalone from the sea bed and hopefully find pearls on their dives. Nine year old Emi is too young to dive and so guards the women’s catch on the seashore. Hanna has always been told by her mother that she must look after her young sister. One morning while the group of haenyeo are diving, Hana spots a Japanese soldier walking towards the rocks where Emi is waiting for them. She swims to the shore close to where the soldier is walking so that he does not see Emi. Hana is captured and so begins her harrowing experience at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.
It’s a beautifully written story about the love two sisters have for each other and the terrible things one is forced to do during war.