In the last months of World War 2, sixteen year old Hiromi sees a man on the beach at night about to shoot himself. He is rescued by another man and dragged into a cave. When she follows to help she finds they are both army deserters—one American, one Japanese.
Though they should be enemies they bond instantly and Hiromi, alone in the world herself, resolves to care for them. But when another joins them the dynamics are upset. Fatally.
Years later, three skeletons and a diary are found in the cave but it’s another 50 odd years before a young female university student notices something odd about the diary and finally solves the mystery of who died in that cave and who lived.
I was intrigued by the premise and more so because I’ve read very little fiction on Japan in the war. The beginning of the book, which is basically Hiromi’s diary is terrific. It’s well crafted, maybe a little too well-crafted to ring true as the diary of a 16 year old, but as it turns out that’s not a bad thing. The characters are immediate and vibrant and it’s easy to get caught up in their story.
But about thirds of the way through it switches voice to the modern day university student and her voice did not ring true to my ear. She sounded more like a sixteen year old than someone who must have been around 22 – and she most definetly did not sound like a university student.
It’s quite a short book, almost a novella, and I think more time spent with the characters in the cave, and a better university student (or a different device to show the plot twist altogether) would have served this much better. In the end it all felt a bit rushed and slapdash, which is a shame as it starts as a lovely attempt to honour both the Japanese and the Americans that were dragged into World War 2.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews