When I learned that there was a book tour for Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai, I knew I had to participate in it because it talks about Japanese occupation in Korea, which is something most people don’t know or aren’t aware of, and I enjoy learning about Korean culture. When I finished reading Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai, I realized that its a rare book where I literally can’t find any mistakes or things to complain about.
Basically, the story is about a Christian Korean family and how they try to survive the time when everything about Korean culture and thought along with Christianity becomes eradicated from existence, and this time period is told from three points of view: that of the middle and youngest brothers as well as their mother. Each point of view is very fascinating, and the author has really shone in blending in daily life with the shadow of World War Two. I had vague familiarity with the things that were talked about, mainly because of a Korean drama titled Eyes of Dawn as well as a young adult book titled When My Name Was Keoko, but somehow I learned a whole lot more when I finished reading it. Not to mention, it unintentionally acted as sort of a background for The Foreign Student by Susan Choi.
Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai choose more to focus on that family and on everyday life during the Japanese Occupation instead of focusing on the battles and war. The reader gets to see He-Seung and how frustrated he feels with his father as well as how much he detests what the Japanese have done. He-Seung, it seems, isn’t allowed to be a normal boy. There is also He-Dong, younger brother of He-Seung and how he tries to be good and make up for his brother’s faults and is only beginning to realize the unfairness of what Japanese are doing. Mother, or Uhmony, as she is known in Korean. focuses on friendships, on helping others in need plus getting enough to eat, as well as being strong during stressful times. The story begins in 1942 and lasts until November of 1945.
I did worry that because of the role of faith, I thought that religion would be shoved down my throat, or that the characters wouldn’t think for themselves. On that count too I was very pleasantly surprised. He-Seung acted as a bumper when it came to his father’s beliefs and how his father seemed to do very little, instead trusting in god to accomplish the impossible. Religion was talked and mentioned, but I never felt that it was forced down one’s throat which becomes a big bonus in my book. Somehow I grew to understand the meaning of faith and how important it becomes for some characters towards the end.
If you’re looking for a unique read about a country that not many know about and that focuses on everyday life instead of epic battles, I would highly recommend that you try Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai, which is guaranteed to change your point of view and teach you things you never knew before.
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)