When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine

Title When the Emperor Was Divine
Author:  Julie Otsuka
Length:  144 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
My Rating:  3.5 Stars

About This Book

This is a well-written historical fiction novel about a Japanese-American family who gets evacuated to an internment camp in Utah during World War II. The novel chronicles the events from before the family is evacuated all the way through when they return home.

My Thoughts

I’ve been trying to think of how to describe the way Otsuka writes this story. While we get a glimpse into what happened in this time in history, Otsuka mainly focuses on how the evacuation, internment, and finally the return home affect the particular family in the story. It’s not dramatized or overly emotional. It’s more like the author has laid out events of what happened with this family, letting the reader experience the story from a distance. As the narrative is built and told to the reader in a short amount of pages, the writing is succinct and precise.

3 thoughts on “When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

  1. You described it very well. Being short and not giving spoilers, makes the brevity of your review right. I was impressed with how the detachment works as the main feeling of the family, who feels the ostracism they treat them with and who throws their experience back at us with a mix of resignation, courage, and that makes me feel bad without them being loud or accusatory.
    It’s one of the few historical fiction books I appreciate and find that it doesn’t misrepresents. Maybe it’s the Japanese quality to it that makes it ring true.


    • The writing style was definitely an interesting approach. Have you read “Journey to Topaz”? It’s interesting to compare the two – both on writing style and what the authors chose to include in their stories (For example, “When the Emperor Was Divine” shares more about what it was like for the family coming home than does “Journey to Topaz.”) The writing styles are very different in my opinion and even the stories themselves each have a different feel to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Look Back at February 2020 – A Month in Review |

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