Books, Uncategorized

Review: The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

Thank you NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and Hot Key Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

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One thousand paper cranes to achieve your heart’s desire.

1945, Hiroshima: Ichiro is a teenage boy relaxing at home with his friend Hiro. Moments later there is a blinding flash as the horrific bomb is dropped. With great bravery the two boys find Hiro’s five year-old sister Keiko in the devastated and blasted landscape. With Hiro succumbing to his wounds, Ichiro is now the only one who can take care of Keiko. But in the chaos Ichiro loses her when he sets off to find help.

Seventy years later, the loss of Keiko and his broken promise to his dying friend are haunting the old man’s fading years. Mizuki, his grandaughter, is determined to help him. As the Japanese legend goes, if you have the patience to fold 1,000 paper cranes, you will find your heart’s desire; and it turns out her grandfather has only one more origami crane to fold…

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I was initially hesitant about this book, as it is written by a white author about a Japanese man and his journey. However, I appreciate the dedication to research and portraying a story not often told with sensitivity and grace. Obviously, having a Japanese author write a story about the horrors of Hiroshima would be better, giving the chance for an Own Voices author to have the spotlight, but Drewery has created this story with help from several organisations in Japan and used her platform to raise awareness of these events, not just masking or distorting them with her privilege. I cannot comment on the reception this book will have within Japanese audiences and would not like to as I cannot speak for them as a white person, but it felt like a well researched piece of historical fiction that may well have happened in one form or another, instead of a gross piece of torture porn which highlights suffering in a twisted light.

I also appreciated that a Japanese artist was hired to illustrate this book, which gave an added emotional depth and beauty to the writing. The images are haunting and fit perfectly with Drewery’s words, bringing the desperation of Ichiro’s journey to life.

The story is presented through a mix of poetry and prose, distinguishing the past and present narratives. I thought this worked perfectly and helped to create a clear difference between Ichiro’s memories and the present day world of Mizuki and her Grandfather.

Drewery uses a character driven plot to explore conflicting emotions in the wake of tragedy, and creates a beautiful, touching piece of work which I feel will resonate with many people. The Hiroshima bomb is a key aspect of this story, but is not the entirety or the focus. The emotions explored and displayed within this work are universal, felt by anyone who has been forced to make a difficult, life changing choice or promise under pressure. The desperation and grief which permeates the words can be picked up and inserted into hundreds of conflicts, situations and into millions of people. Hiroshima is just one of these unspeakable events. However, I appreciate that the story was set here, as the amount of WW2 stories from a Japanese perspective are few and far between, and having the chance to explore this gave me a deeper understanding of the true barbaric consequences of the Atomic bomb.

I gave this book 4 stars in the end!

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