Saturday, 20 July 2019

Book review : The Woman In The White Kimono - Ana Johns

Tori Kovac has been through a tough few weeks, caring for her beloved father in the final days of his battle against cancer. He hands over an old letter to her, which reveals details of his first love - a young woman in Japan who he was married to, and apparently had a child with, before returning home to The States and starting a family with Tori's mother. Shocked and deeply moved, Tori decides to head to Japan and see what she can find out about her father's past life and this unknown half-sister who may still be out there.

In alternate chapters, the action moves back to Japan in 1957, where 17-year-old Naoko Nakamura is happily in love with her boyfriend Hajime. Her rather traditional parents are hoping to set up an arranged marriage with a wealthy local man - a marriage which would secure her and her family's status within the traditional Japanese community - but Naoko wants to introduce her own love to them. When they learn that he is an American sailor, he is cast out - her father, in particular, cannot bear the thought after the dishonour of World War II - but Naoko will not give up, especially when she learns that she is pregnant.

While Hajime is away at sea, Naoko's grandmother arranges for a medical visit at a local nursing home for her granddaughter. Eager to ensure that her pregnancy is evolving correctly, Naoko is happy to assist but once inside, she discovers that she can no longer leave. Speaking to the other pregnant girls, many of whom are also pregnant with American/Japanese babies, she soon discovers the horror of her situation. If she wants her happy ending, she must find a way to escape the locked garden before it is too late.

The story is beautifully written and really gives you a sense of what life was like at the time in Japan. While it is hard to sympathise with the father, I could understand his sense of shame and longing to get back to how life was before the war. I was nevertheless left with a desperate desire to find out what really happened to the American sailor - there are a few things left unsaid so the reader is not really sure of his intentions.

As well as being a heart-breaking work of fiction, The Woman In The White Kimono is also inspired by a multitude of true stories, including some from the author's own family, which just makes it even more poignant. Make sure you read the Author's Notes at the end to see where some of the people and places came from in real life.

star rating : 5/5

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (15 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789550696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789550696
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to share my honest review.


  1. Love the cover. Sounds like an interesting book, love to read about Japan.

  2. This sounds like the kind of book I really love reading. I'm sure I have learned far more about 20th century history from reading fiction than I ever learned at school or from my parents.

    1. Definitely - I'm the same ! I love reading a really good book, full of emotion, that makes you think, then you realise at the end that it's based on fact and the author fills you in on all the exact details :)


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