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The Gardens of Kyoto (2001)

by Kate Walbert

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408762,250 (3.55)24
Kate Walbert recalls the death of her favorite cousin on Iwo Jima and her romance six years later with a man on the eve of his departure for Korea.

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» See also 24 mentions

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Ann Packer rec
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Somehow, this book just became one of my favorites. I bought it while browsing at the bookstore last month. Its beauty is so subtle and pure. I know I'll be thinking about this story (and crying over it) for a while. ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
What is a memory when it can be tainted or changed by the emotional upheaval of growing up? By grief? Ellen's favorite cousin, killed in the final days of World War II, leaves a lasting impression on her young life and ultimately shapes her future world. Randall's death is profound on multiple levels. He leaves Ellen his diary and a book called The Gardens of Kyoto, his most meaningful possessions. The parallel between the Gardens of Kyoto that fascinated Randall and Ellen's present-day reality is in the illusion: of what is really there before your eyes. Ellen goes through life constantly questioning Randall's influences.
There is a subtle resilience to Walbert's writing; an understated strength and grace to her words. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 23, 2018 |
Kate Walbert is an extraordinary author. She has a way with words, both lyrical and seductive. If she wrote the telephone book, I know that it would be one of the most beautiful books ever written. This is my third novel by Walbert, and each time she amazes me again with the poetry and imagery with which she imbues every story.

Like her other novels I've read, A Short History of Women and Where She Went, The Gardens of Kyoto weaves stories within stories. It is ostensibly a coming-of-age tale during and following the second world war. Ellen is a young girl, growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, in love with her cousin Randall, whom we learn in the first sentence was killed on Iwo Jima. The rest of the book moves back and forth in time, mingling their tragic story with that of Ruby and Sterling, Daphne and Gideon, Ellen and John.

The narrative is written in stream of consciousness, jumping from one memory to another as she narrates her history to a person identified only at the the end of the novel. The whole novel moves at a slow pace, there is no rush of action or emotion, no crescendo, and yet it is perfect in this. It is not a story that would lend itself well to a huge reveal or adventure. And this is exactly what I love about it. It is a novel that you read simply for the joy of a beautifully written word. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
I really did not understand this one at all. Large portions of the plot are left hanging and never resolved. Characters do not ring true, whole thing seemed very phony. ( )
  wweisser | Jul 6, 2013 |
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It is not the materials in isolation that form a garden, but the fragments in relation . . .
(A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto)
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I had a cousin, Randall, killed on Iwo Jima.
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Kate Walbert recalls the death of her favorite cousin on Iwo Jima and her romance six years later with a man on the eve of his departure for Korea.

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