Sunday, March 17, 2013

Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson

Snow Falling on CedarsThe accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant's table - the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial. 

I love historical fiction as well as mystery, so Snow Falling on Cedars sounded really interesting to me. "San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries - memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense - one that leaves us shaken and changed." 

I loved some elements of the novel; others, not so much. For example, there were way too many badly written graphic sex scenes in the book; completely unnecessary. Snow Falling on Cedars also tends to ramble; there's no really strong plotline. At the trial as each new person comes to the witness stand, a long reminiscence in their past is indulged in. We hear about the love affair, we hear about life as a Japanese strawberry picker. Some of the descriptions of the Pacific Northwest are beautiful, but somehow, the book's writing falls a little flat. The plot is a really great one, but it was annoying how the book flashed back and forth. And we didn't actually know why Kabuo is suspected of the murder until way into the novel. That was purposeful of course, keeping the reader in suspense, finding out as the audience in the courtroom finds out, but I would have liked to know a bit sooner. 

Still, I did enjoy this book. A lot of the landscapes felt really familiar to me, since I live not that far from the setting. Still, the book is set in the past, so parts of it were new to me. I liked the character of Hatsue, Kabuo's wife,  though she could have been developed a bit more. The writing was disjointed at times, but it wasn't too bad. 

In summary, this book could have been better, but it also could have been much worse. I did enjoy it, but the number of graphic scenes was way too much. They didn't even serve to add anything to the story, which is the whole point of doing something like that. I would actually recommend it if the plot sounds interesting, but it wasn't a favorite for me. 

Read Snow Falling on Cedars:
  • if you like historical fiction
  • if you like books set in the Pacific Northwest
  • if you like books dealing with the Japanese internment camps
460 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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