When the Emperor Was Divine

A Novel

Otsuka, Julie

Book - 2002
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
When the Emperor Was Divine
Julie Otsuka's commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination--both physical and emotional--of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view--the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family's return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity--she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated,When the Emperor Was Divineis a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

Publisher: New York :, Knopf :, Distributed by Random House,, 2002
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 0375414290
Branch Call Number: FICTION Ots
Characteristics: 141 pages ; 19 cm


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Feb 23, 2015
  • VV3 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Told in the third person, Otsuka manages to create a powerful story about a Japanese-American family who are sent to an internment camp during WW2. While almost impersonal, the story is still lyrical and moving.

Sep 24, 2014
  • miaone rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I'd recommend Farewell to Manzanar for a deeper story of the lives of American Japanese on the home front in WWII and after. This book is cleverly written to appeal to people who know little about the subject. I found it boringly superficial after the first two chapters, as well as predictable, repetitive, and contrived.

Aug 28, 2014
  • InvernessS rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Another view of detainment, how it came about for this family, the journey, living conditions & surprisingly to me, the return to their home when so many had no home to return to. Many parts are hard to accept, the deprivation, humiliation, outcast & shunning of Americans by their country & government, by such uncharitable neighbors. Why weren't Germans detained? Skin color I surmise. Great book.

Jul 24, 2014

This was a beautifully crafted piece of literature. On each page you felt the emotions of the characters coming through on the page,and not naming the charters made the story even more universal. Unfortunately, this was a very sad era in our history, hopefully never to be repeated again. Great read.

Mar 04, 2014
  • uncommonreader rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A slim volume about the Japanese internment during WW II. Well done but not exceptional.

Feb 21, 2014
  • coastalkate rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Best book I read in 2013. Better than her Buddha's in the Attic. Her style in this one perfectly tells the story - well crafted and well written.

Jan 29, 2014
  • lmcshane rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I woud recommend this as high school reading - especially to give sense of xenophobia at the time. Otsuka's writing style is very much like Raymond Carver's - spare.

Aug 02, 2013
  • Krull14 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Really compelling book about hardship. I wish it had gone in to a little more detail, as it seemed to skip some details.

Feb 27, 2013
  • mrsgail5756 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A very good read. I enjoyed this book. I would recommend this book for all to read.

Dec 18, 2011
  • pokano rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Powerful story of a Japanese/Japanese American family torn apart during World War II. Julie Otsuka's story is all the more poignant and desolate because none of the family has names.

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Jul 24, 2014

"I ' m. the slant-eyed sniper in the trees.
I'm the saboteur in the shrubs.
I'm the stranger at the gate.
I'm the traitor in your own backyard.
I'm your houseboy.
I'm your cook.
I'm your gardener.
And I've been living here,quietly, beside you,just waiting for Tojo to flash me the high sign."

Feb 27, 2013
  • mrsgail5756 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, and professionals built the Titanic.” -Anonymous


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