> The Beesley Buzz: Britmums Book Club Book Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Britmums Book Club Book Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

My main objective for signing up to review this book for Britmums bookclub was the same as the last book I reviewed - to force myself to make a little 'me-time' to read. And although it was a shorter and quicker read, I found myself really looking forward to reading it each time I got a few moments to myself.

The style of writing was perfect for being able to just pick up the book and get straight into it and then be able to pick up where you left off the next time. Even from the very first page of the book, you are launched straight into the story.

Throughout the book the author writes as "some of us" and then goes onto describe the women's (and in some cases, young girls') experiences of their journey to America and subsequent lives they find themselves living.

This unique way of writing manages to effectively capture the experiences of many rather than just one or two key characters whilst giving us a beautiful-to-read insight into their difficult lives. The style of writing has been described as 'poetic' and 'lyrical'.

Even though I knew what was to come (the book is based on factual historical events) I actually found the first chapter a positive one as the women looked forward to their future, full of hope and full of expectation of what they had been promised, that is, a better life with handsome successful husbands who they were yet to meet.

Of course, the reader guesses that their husbands will turn out not to be the men in the photographs but I was still left hoping that they would find the better life that they were so longing for.

But by the end of the second chapter, we realise beyond any doubt that it is not meant to be. They are destined for a much much harder life than they imagined. Yet within this difficult life, I found there were little glimpses of hope - perhaps in one or two cases where their experience was not as bad as the others or they got a lucky break and managed to get a life that was perhaps better than it could otherwise have been.

From the way the book is described on the back cover, I imagined myself finding it emotionally a difficult read - but to be it was not as unbearable as I imagined it would be. No doubt if I let myself think too much about what these women and families went through, then it would have impacted me more - but I almost forced myself to keep an emotional distance from it. It was the chapters about babies and children that I found the most difficult to read.

And yet, worse was to come. Somewhat naively I had made the assumption that the worse part of the book was the hard life they had arrived to in America and yet, of course, the coming war was a much bigger threat to these women and their families.

Those men that had caused so much fear and heartbreak at the start of the book became husbands that were spoken of quite fondly, I thought, by the end of the book. Quiet unsung heroes they were almost portrayed as.

This is a book that I enjoyed very much and would return to reading a second time in the future. I think that books like this that bring to life actual historic events have an important role to play in helping us learn from the past and inspire an interest in history (Victoria Hislop's books The Island and The Thread also play a similar role in my mind of making history very real by seeing it through the eyes of characters living through the events).

It is easy for us to put these events in the past as having a place in history but not relevant to today and yet I would challenge anyone who reads this (myself included) to spend a moment thinking about all the women and children in the world today who are living lives as hard and as difficult as the characters in the story. To think of people living in fear in wartorn countries? To think of the thousands of children dying daily from poverty related causes?

We may not be able to make right all the wrongs of the past, but is there anything we can be doing now to help in situations going on around the world at the moment so that there will be no need for a book to be written in a hundred years time that will highlight the tragedies in lives of people living now.

I will be linking this review up to the Bookclub linky when it goes live but in the meantime you can find out more about Britmums Bookclub here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Budda in the Attic to keep for the purposes of this review. All opinions given here are my own.


  1. I loved this book too, so thought provoking, and beautifully written

  2. This is fantastically insightful, and I totally agree with what you've said. It's really important to remember that aspects of this story Are Still a reality for some and it's not resigned, entirely, to the past xx

  3. Loved your review and really interesting comparison to Victoria Heslop's Novels. Also, it was a reality. Even thought it's beautifully written it did make me think differently about an area of US/Japanese history I knew nothing about.

  4. I really loved this book, very empowering I thought


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