LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB PICK
'Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Piano Teacher, in the best way.' InStyle
Amaterasu Takahashi has spent her life grieving for her daughter Yuko and grandson Hideo, who were victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
Now a widow living in America, she believes that one man was responsible for her loss; a local doctor who caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter.
When a man claiming to be Hideo arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to revisit the past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance and the realisation that if she had loved her daughter in a different way, she might still be alive today.
In Copleton's uneven debut, Takahashi is visited in her old age by a man who claims to be Hideo, the grandson she believes had died during the WWII bombing of Nagasaki, which triggers memories. Amaterasu learns that Hideo was found in an orphanage and raised by Jomei Sato, an old friend of Amaterasu's husband, Kenzo. Amaterasu remembers how she and Kenzo attempted to keep the married and much older Jomei from their 16-year-old daughter, Yuko. Amaterasu gets a better sense of the past after going through her daughter's journals and reading letters Jomei had written to Yuko after her death, though she remains wary of Hideo and bitter about Jomei's actions. Copleton breathes life into the first two-thirds of the book, an often-poignant narrative of the many forms of love and loss, though it's somewhat hindered by the diary and letter-writing formats. Unfortunately, a dark secret that's hinted at and revealed in the final act of the novel is quite outlandish, and it derails the work of the previous chapters. Though the story has many moving passages and an initially intriguing plot, the denouement strains credibility.