Discomfort

for CE

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

What an amazing book!

A very moving book. Complicated in structure at first – I had to start it over again a few times before I finally got the hang of it – that’s what happens when you have a book in every room and pick them up at random. Anyway last week I decided this was the book to read now, and at every opportunity, and it certainly repaid my efforts. It’s told from the points of view of two protagonists – and towards the end, when it suddenly dawned on me who they were to each other, I found I could not put the book down. Coffee undrunk, meals unmade, I had to finish it.
The tragic tale of a comfort woman – what a euphemism for sexual slavery in war time Singapore, servicing the occupying Japanese troops – taken by force from her home, used, abused and spat out, unable to face coming home or telling anyone what had happened to her – I was going to say what she had done – but she had not done anything except show a marvellous mental resilience to all the cruelties she endured – and a young boy, 50 years later, who discovers the truth about his father and resolves to seek closure for him.
A harrowing tale, lyrically told. Obviously based on truth, unfortunately, but well worth reading and savouring the language.
It also has a lot to say about the importance of language and identity, of literacy, of recent world history and the incredible power of family love.

I’ve just reread the above. It’s very disjointed- probably reflecting the amount of emotions bubbling within me as I think about the novel.

Although it is set in an area and time that is totally alien to me, you can recognise many people you have come across. The uncommunicative, the proud, the hoarders, the bullies, the shy and the angry, as well as the selflessly kind.

Two of the most poignant moments were when the boy confronts his schoolmate bully by saying hallo in a public place – and his antagonists reacts without being nasty; and when his Chinese teacher translates all the letters he has found and returns them to him without prying. Two moments ( of many) which showed great dignity.

I can recommend it. Have you read it? What did you think of it?

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