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Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David…

Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel (original 1994; edition 1995)

by David Guterson

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9,172119326 (3.75)257
Title:Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel
Authors:David Guterson
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 460 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:japan, united states, historical fiction

Work details

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (1994)

  1. 161
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Very different novels exploring similar themes
  2. 100
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: This novel also deals with the internment of Japanese Americans and the heartache endured.
  3. 21
    Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson (browner56)
    browner56: The Pacific Northwest sets the stage for these engrossing and highly atmospheric novels
  4. 10
    Sole Survivor by Derek Hansen (imager)
    imager: Internment, but in different circumstances
  5. 10
    The Sky Fisherman: A Novel by Craig Lesley (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both books show a love for the Pacific Northwest in their setting.

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I started this in Vancouver so there was something about reading it as I was flying over the islands that are the prototype. I have no idea if there actually is a San Peidro Island, I suspect not. I liked the constant shifting of action from the 'current day' trial into the past and then also the little paragraphs of what was happening at different times on the island, almost like the news bits in the local paper that Ishmael writes. Permeating the whole story is the deportation and internment of the islands Japanese residents, a shameful part of American history that resonants today. All of the actions are part of the story. The solving of the mystery is less important here than the development of the characters, who are built up slowly in the flashback vingettes. It really took me away to a different world. I'd like to read more by him and also some of his references on the time period and the islands.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
When Carl Heine is pulled out of his gill net with his skull racked open just above his left ear, foul play is suspected. A casual remark by the coroner leads to the arrest of Kabu Miyamoto, a local fisherman of Japanese descent. The ensuing trial exposes the tensions between the Japanese community and other ethnic groups on a small island in the Puget Sound. Guterson re-creates the confusion created by different cultural interpretations of a single act, but also establishes a wonderful sense of place. The characters have strong physical and emotional relationships to the land and sea. The novel is suffused with the scent of cedars and strawberries, the softness of moss, mist and snow. Guterson, himself resident of a small island in the Puget Sound has observed his land well. Snow Falling On Cedars was his first novel and won him the PEN/Faulkner Award.
  Oandthegang | May 26, 2014 |

Blurb.......In 1954 a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man's guilt. For on San Piedro, memories grow as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries - memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbours watched

I've had this on my bookshelf probably 15 years or so, ever since one of my sister's bought it for me as either a birthday or Christmas present. It was the sort of book that you went, hmmm that's nice, all the while thinking I'd have preferred socks. I have tried a couple of times over the intervening period to get into it, but it was always discarded after a chapter or two.

Anyway, this time with a new found resolve, to reduce the "stop-start-put aside" pile, I tried again.
Extremely glad I did, as it was well worth the effort.

I'm fairly sure this book appears on those lists of 100 best books or 100 books to read before you die type thing and did win the PEN/FAULKNER award for fiction in 1995.

Cutting to the chase, Guterson writes of a mixed community; American and Japanese-American still divided and struggling to deal with the aftermath of Pearl Harbour and the Second World War. The Japanese interned shortly after Pearl Harbour, losing everything and dependent on the goodwill of those more charitable neighbours who viewed them as friends and fellow Americans and not as an inscrutable Oriental enemy to be feared.

A truncated mixed race and clandestine teenage love story, which along with a land-deal that gets reneged on when the Japanese-Americans are interned, festers over the years in the hearts and minds of the protagonists.

Guterson explores racism and discrimination both from an institutional level with a large swage of the Japanese community unable to legally become landowners and on an individual basis where neighbour mistrusts neighbour because of the happenings of the previous ten years.

With a fisherman found dead in his nets, and a cursory investigation leading to his Japanese childhood friend, who was supposedly at loggerheads with him over the previously lost land, the murder trial allows the resentments and grievances of the past to resurface.

Guterson's writing is very descriptive and he brings the plot slowly to the boil, rather than providing a fast paced read. The sense of isolation on the island when the storm gathers is palpable.

Usually one of my yardsticks of measuring enjoyment from a book is to ask myself if I want to read more from the author. In this case, probably not, having read a selection of his short stories either late last year, or earlier on in this one. No particular reason why - maybe too many other books to consider.

Still very well written and enjoyable though,

4 from 5......not such a bad present from my sister after all!

( )
1 vote col2910 | Apr 17, 2014 |
This, the author’s first novel, couldn’t be more different from his allegorical Oedipus Rex novel, "Ed King," that I read last year. With just two books by Guterson under my reading belt, I'm already amazed at his talent and scope.

I saw the “Snow” movie long ago and determined then that I wanted to read the novel but only picked it up now. Love this book set in the Pacific Northwest of the 1950s on the fictional cedar treed island of San Piedro, whose inhabitants are divided into two lifestyles: the landward bound strawberry farmers and the sea-going salmon fisherman. They are also divided racially, the white (mostly Scandinavian Americans) and the Japanese Americans. Racial divisions come to a head when, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese are harassed and forcibly evacuated to camps in Montana and the Mojave.

They are further divided in the novel’s post-war present during Kabuo Miyamoto’s murder trial. He stands accused of murdering another well-respected fisherman, Carl Heine. The story adopts the removed p.o.v. of Ishmael Chambers, a WWII vet who lost an arm in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese and who is now the publisher of the island’s local paper. He and Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue, had been childhood sweethearts and teen lovers, forced apart by her parents’ racial prejudice and driven apart by the war.

The novel’s core concern is unraveling the events surrounding Heine’s death that are eventually uncovered by Chambers as he attempts to heal the emotional wounds surrounding the torch he still carries for Hatsue. The strong symbolism of Chamber's amputated arm and his lost love works well.

Guterson has created a book so atmospheric and spare, "filled" with suppressed emotions that explode in the most subdued way, that it lingers in one’s memory like a Japanese watercolor – all black line and white background, movement trapped in stillness, power exhibited by control -- reminding us of San Piedro's cedar trees covered in snow, the "black and white" racial divisions of its people, and the dark island itself that looms in a fog-shrouded sea. ( )
  Limelite | Mar 9, 2014 |
Snow falling on Cedars is a in depth point of view of how two cultures clash and try to adapt between each other. The struggle is a hard and rebellious stage between the characters that grow up along side each other. It’s a great story about Japanese American imprisoned in the Pacific Northwest during WWII, its sad that we treated other Americans this way. It’s a very interesting read and should remind us how far we have come as a society, but also how far we still need to go as a nation. ( )
  MeghanHines | Mar 5, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Gutersonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mijn, Aad van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother and father,
with gratitude.
First words
The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant's table - the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial.
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself
within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild,
and rough, and stubborn wood this was,
which in my thought renews the fear!
- Dante, The Divine Comedy
Harmony, like a following breeze
at sea, is the exception.
Harvey Oxenhorn, Tuning the Rig
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
San Piedro island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who livers there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American names Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man's guilt. For on San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries-memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of a land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Peidro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during WWII, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. (0-679-76402-X)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067976402X, Paperback)

This is the kind of book where you can smell and hear and see the fictional world the writer has created, so palpably does the atmosphere come through. Set on an island in the straits north of Puget Sound, in Washington, where everyone is either a fisherman or a berry farmer, the story is nominally about a murder trial. But since it's set in the 1950s, lingering memories of World War II, internment camps and racism helps fuel suspicion of a Japanese-American fisherman, a lifelong resident of the islands. It's a great story, but the primary pleasure of the book is Guterson's renderings of the people and the place.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In Washington State, the trial of Kabuo Miyomoto, a Japanese-American fisherman accused of murdering another fisherman, Carl Heine. The prosecution charges the murder was committed as revenge for the Heine family taking Miyomoto's land at the outbreak of World War II and the novel traces the different reaction of the white and yellow communities. By the author of The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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