Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Finished October 24
Requiem by Frances Itani
Itani is an amazing writer and her books never fail to capture me. Her writing just flows so naturally. This novel is about Bin, a painter, who has recently lost his wife to a stroke. The sudden death has hit both Bin and his son Greg very hard. Bin and his family were among the many Japanese to be forcibly moved from Canada's west coast after Pearl Harbour, and they spent the war years at an internment camp in the Fraser River valley. As Bin struggles with grief, he decides to drive from his home in Ottawa across Canada to the camp, accompanied by his dog Basil. The war years and what happened during them and as a result of them are something Bin has never really faced and dealt with, despite his wife's encouragement to do so.
The river that the camp lay beside was the first river to capture Bin's artistry, and rivers have become a major theme in his art ever since. Bin's memories move back and forth to happier days to with his wife and his childhood during and following the internment as he wanders back west. Music is another theme here, one that he can date to his life before Pearl Harbor, and that was intensified with his relationship with Okuma-san, and later a shared love with his wife. The music of Beethoven, his first love, carries him back across the country, both consoling him and reminding him as he goes.
This is a novel of feeling, a novel of grief, a novel of consolation. A joy to read.

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