Where do I even start. First things first, be sure to read the Author Note at the beginning and at the end of this one. Even if this book wasn’t exceptionally well done, I would give it a high rating just for the Authors Notes. Linda Thompson introduces her book with an explanation of why she did what she did and touching on what she is lifting from history and what is a fictional invention. And then at the end of the book, she takes a deep dive into dividing this is what happened in this time in history and this is a character she made up. And she goes into detail, I have such respect for this lady, everything is so deeply researched and has historical precedence.
Now to actually talk about The Plum Blooms in Winter. The story is split in two, half taking place shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the other half 6 years later in a Japan that is living in a post WWII world. The during WWII part follows a (fictional) pilot, Dave Delham, from the Doolittle Raid who was forced to bail out over occupied China and was captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. The post WWII part follows a (fictional) Japanese woman, Miyako Matsuura, who lived through the bombing of Osaka and became a prostitute to survive. She finds out that one of the pilots who bombed Osaka will be speaking near her and vows to kill him to avenge the death of her brother.
This book, is not an easy read. And not just because of the subject matter. Thompson has mastered the art of “fade to black” and not pulling punches. I was told she was really good at that, but you guys- she is really good at it. The story is relentless, she covers intense subject matter. The pilot is a prisoner of war in that time and place and it was a brutal reality. And she adds at the top of each chapter how many days he and his men have been captive and it goes on for years. Miyako Matsuura is near the bottom of the social ladder, and her life is tragic. Her entire world was shattered with Japan losing the war. (What blew me away the most was the author writing the character of Miyako in such a way that I completely believed western life was utterly foreign to her.)
So far I believe I’ve made this book out to sound like an excellent historical fiction to educate you and leave you wanting something to cheer you up. The first half is true, and go read it for that reason alone, but this is a story of faith. And a clash of world views. And it is powerful. I don’t use that lightly, go discover this new author and download her book to your kindle. And be prepared to stay up until almost 1AM reading and forget mostly everything you were supposed to bring the next day.
Note: I received this book as an advance pre-reader copy.