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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flowers of War - Geling Yang & Nicky Harman

Released February 2012

Other Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Flowers of War tells the story of an American priest who does his best to keep a group of school girls safe from the atrocities being committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Nanking Massacre. When a group of prostitutes from a nearby brothel flee to his church, he wants them to go away but eventually offers them protection too. Soon, the American church is also harboring Chinese POWs. While the American church should be safe from the Japanese soldiers, it's clear that the Japanese are not following any rules other than their own.

Flowers of War is being re-released now that it is a motion picture starring Christian Bale. Originally published in 2006, the story offers a timeless look at the atrocities of war. It's quite heartbreaking at times and told with such honesty, that it often feels like you're reading a true story. This is likely a good thing as in my years of school, I'd never heard of the Nanking Massacre, so it became a bit of a lesson for me. One thing is hard to ignore, I've heard the stories of what soldiers do during war that is completely out of character for many of them, and obviously that hasn't changed over the decades.

The characters are well-developed, though some of them I would have liked to see a little more background. At just over 250 pages, this isn't a long story and doesn't take a lot of time to read. The ending comes quickly and left tears in my eyes. I'm glad I came across Flower of War. It's a poignant story that I feel is very important for everyone to read and learn something from.

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