Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review - Daughters of The Dragon - William Andrews

'You must have the courage of the seed, Anna. Without it, you will stay buried.'

Daughters of the Dragon is a historical fiction based on the comfort women of Korea during the Second World War. If I am completely honest with you, which I like to be, I had never heard of comfort women before. These were women taken by the Japanese army against their will and raped and tortured for the relief of their soldiers. What is possibly worse than these crimes themselves is the fact that Japan still won't apologise, or even recognise what they did to these women.

So obviously it isn't a pleasant subject matter, and if rape and torture are triggers for you, then steer clear, however, if not, I really do recommend it. William Andrews spoke to some of the few surviving comfort women to get their true accounts, so, though embellished, a lot of the story is true.

Daughters of the Dragon starts with Anna, an American girl who visits Korea to find out about her birth mother, following the death of her own. This takes her to Seoul, to the orphanage she was born in. From here she learns that her mother died in childbirth, and despondent  from this news, her and her father leave to travel back to their hotel. On their way back however, Anna is stopped by an old Korean lady who hands her a wrapped gift, 'visit me on the address within' she tells her in perfect English. Confused, Anna opens the gift on the bus, inside she discovers an ornate comb with a two headed, five toed Dragon. Intrigued to know why this woman gave her the comb, she visits her and discovers her amazing story.

I felt like Anna was an unnecessary part of the story. I know he did this as a small dedication to his daughter who herself is from Korea, but I don't think it actually added to the story, and I feel like a grandmother wouldn't go into such details as Ja-Hee did on a first encounter with a granddaughter. If it was perhaps written in the style of a memoir, or perhaps Ja-Hee was recounting her tale to a journalist of someone of the like, it would have made more sense. Ja-Hee is the protagonist of this story, Anna is an added extra. Going along with this, I feel like we meet Anna at the start, and want to go with her on her quest to find out about her mother, and though she finds out an amazing story about her grandmother, towards the end time seems to rush, jumping ten years at a time, and in this time we find out very little about Anna's mother, and then she is dead, that is it. There is no room for emotion for her, and again this makes Anna's part in the story somewhat obsolete. 

However, these are probably the only negatives about this book. Ja-hee's story is completely intriguing. I read this in around two days, most of that time staying up late at night to finish it. I wanted to know what happened to Ja-Hee during her time as a comfort woman, I was rooting for her to survive. Its compelling and I would be surprised at anyone who doesn't get deeply involved in it. 

Overall I would give this book a 4 out of 5, I really do recommend. If you've read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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