A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

dictionayI absolutely loved this book. It has been long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and I have to say it not only deserves to be listed, but also to win. I admit the last few pages made me cry. Tends to be my reaction to things or works of art of great beauty. Music, art and yes, even great and beautiful fiction.

Some authors write well and others are just natural storytellers, the combination of the two can make for a spectacular read. Copleton does both really well. In fact if I didn’t know any better I would swear Amaterasu was not a fictional person at all, and wrote this story herself, that’s how realistic it is.

The title doesn’t really do the story any justice, however I do believe it emulates the subtlety of the tale. Within the subtle weaving of emotional turmoil is the fragile spider-web of family dynamics. Those elements are off-set and enhanced by the intricate details of the bombing of Nagasaki.

I also really enjoyed the passages at the beginning of each chapter. The information about Japanese traditions, phrases and etiquette gave an extra level of understanding to the story.

The main focus is on the relationship between Amaterasu and her daughter Yuko. The way Amaterasu interferes to change and determine Yuko’s path in life, how she deals with her guilt, and how her past casts a long shadow over her entire life.

Simultaneously Amaterasu has to deal with the possibility that her grandchild may not have been killed at all. When the alleged grandson turns up at her door after many decades, everything she has resigned herself to for so many years is torn apart by doubt. Her resistance to the possible truth is fascinating. as if the burden of guilt is bigger than the joy at being wrong all those years.

Irrespective of the actual ending or the truth, I think Hideo’s true identity becomes irrelevant at some point. He is merely another victim of an unnecessary tragedy and atrocity. Does it really matter whether he is Hideo or not?

As for Amaterasu, I understand the meddling and the manipulation. She is a mother and only wants what is best for her child. Unlike Yuko she has the full picture and all the information, perhaps if she had been honest Yuko may have made different choices in regards to Sato.

This story is captivating and emotionally moving. It is literary fiction at its finest. Copleton manages to capture the horror and the aftermath of Nagasaki in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are right there. The family dynamics and relationships fit snugly around the pikadon. Family and man-made atrocity go hand in hand to create a truly wonderful read.

Buy A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s