Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Review: Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai

Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai

Completion Date: May, 2014
Length: 316 Pages
"McBurney-Lin crafts…an engaging and entertaining read from beginning to end." --Midwest Book Review
"Impossible to put down—or to forget—authors’ grippingly suspenseful and deeply affecting historical novel limns the lives of a Korean family under Japanese rule with astonishing grace and power." --Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
"Riveting internal dialogue and narration interspersed with quotes from those running the war efforts on various fronts combine to compel the reader forward. I say compel rather than propel, because I had to read. I had to know how this family and those around them would fare in the end."—Keri Rojas, bookseller at Cornerstone Cottage, Hampton, IA.
Hi-Dong Chai and Jana McBurney-Lin, the award-winning author of My Half of the Sky, turn their hands to a remarkable story of a family and country torn apart by outside forces.
The time is 1942, the place, Japanese-occupied Seoul, Korea. Fifteen-year-old He-Seung is full of fire, ready to take on these Japanese…if only he could convince his father, a Christian minister more concerned about saving his flock in a time when Emperor-worship has become mandatory.
Since occupation, the Japanese have eradicated the Korean language, names, even the country’s flower. Now they are seeking Korean boys as volunteers for their army. When his father is arrested by the Japanese, however, He-Seung must swallow his hatred of the enemy. Even harder, he must leave his mother and baby brother He-Dong to fend for themselves.
Based on a true story, Blossoms & Bayonets is suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period. The story lends an eyewitness perspective to events as they unfold. revealing an era of nuance and complexity, and shedding a bit of light on why --and how--one war led to the next.
The problem with getting away from blogging is that it makes it harder and harder to get back in the groove. I sit down to blog, but I wind up staring at a blank screen. Then, I fall behind entirely and that makes it seem like work to catch-up and blogging is supposed to be fun. I told myself I would make June a blogging month, but it has taken me this long to actually sit down and post. It's sad.

One of my favourite subjects to read about is WWII, so, when I saw this was set during then I knew I was going to have to snatch up a copy. Especially since I typically read books about the Canadian involvement and have been a bit slack with everyone else. This book is about the Japanese-occupied Seoul, Korea. This is something that I have been aware of, but never read a book that centres around it. And, it is based on the true story of Hi-Dong Chai, the co-author, so it definitely paints a picture of this time period. I think it is fantastic to take advantage of these resources before we don't have them any more.

Each chapter of the book opens with real quotes said during this difficult time. It helps frame the story and shows a wide-range of people around then. I loved how this book was written. It was very well-written with the three different narrators telling the story. The narrators, the wife and sons of a Christian minister, were great choices. This definitely was a story of love, faith, and courage during a difficult time. I am glad I read it!



  1. With the exception of a photo post, I haven't blogged since May 19th. Yes, it's very hard to get back in the groove. I'm at that point (once again!) when I start to question my blogging future...

  2. I'm really interested in this one! We share an interest in WWII, and my brother-in-law will be going to Korea soon. I also love Korean Drama!

    Miss your regular blogging, but understand.

  3. I haven't yet read a book about Korea during WWII, so I'll have to keep an eye out for this one!

  4. Yes, it is hard to get back into blogging when you've been away, but the good thing is that once you're back it's easier to remain :) This sounds like a good book, and a subject I can't say I've read about before.

  5. It's good to see you blogging again, Kelly! I've missed you.

    I don't think I've read anything from this point of view of the war either, but it does sound fascinating. I'm adding it to my list.

  6. I have missed you, Kelly! I am glad to see you back, in whatever truncated format. Don't blog if you don't want to. I have been feeling pretty unmotivated myself lately, I think because the weather is so nice out, and I don't want to be sitting inside on my computer when I can be doing other things.


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