*I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review*
David A. Poulsden penned And Then the Sky Exploded with consideration and subtlety, and provided a modern outlook on the atrocity faced in Japan on August 6th 1945. We join Yuko, an 82 year-old (by my calculations) “Hibokusha” (a surviving victim of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and Christian Larkin, a 14 year-old boy suffering with the knowledge that his beloved great-grandad played a part in designing those weapons.
I’m a bit of a history nerd so I was ready to stick my claws in to this read – I’ve studied this topic in history a couple times now, and never before have I had such an insight into how Japan actually built up to the atomic bomb, and the long lasting INDIVIDUAL effects of the atrocity. It is truly a pertinent book, and an insightful journey that I’m so glad I was able to read.
What I liked:
– I felt an immediate connection to the characters, which is always a major draw to a book for me. If I’m not a fan of the characters, I just can’t connect with the plot on an emotional level (I’m definitely character-favouring in place of plotlines). Yuko and Zaina were both incredibly intriguing, and gentle characters in their nature – they definitely drew me in from the off.
– That being said, the plotline, although fairly basic, kept my interests high and did the job!
– I loved the presentation of the story – the interspersion of Yuko in 1945 after the bomb hit, with present-day Chris was particularly effective as it forced a mental shift in time period, and mood, which served to accentuate the finer details of their stories.
– I loved the use of real Hiroshima stories (such as that of Sadako Sasaki, which was particularly heart-wrenching). It brought home the horrors of the war, without the graphics, and made the story feel super personal. On the same thread, I LOVED THE JAPENESE CULTURE and I am now WISHING I COULD GO ON HOLIDAY THERE. Using real Japanese words, places and formalities etc added to the depth of tangibility in the story – I’m super intrigued by the “Shibuya Crossing”.
What I didn’t like so much:
– The story was fairly erratic in places; was sometimes hard to follow when events were merged together.
– The ending fell on the cliché side for me. Don’t get me wrong, I usually don’t have a major problem with cliché plotlines (because I’m a sucker for what I know I like), but it just felt a little out of place in a novel which tackled such a serious theme.
– Also, I wasn’t a massive fan of the plot-twist at the end. IT SEEMED TOO OUT OF PLACE FOR MY LIKING *shakes head* There was an incident about Chris and Zaina being jumped by skinheads who had a problem with Zaina’s skintone. WHAT?! Where did that come?! Why ruin the perfect ending of the book (Yuko allowing Chris internal peace) with a random tangent about race? I think it was just to further Lorelei’s character, but I have to ask why – I DIDN’T CARE ALL THAT MUCH ABOUT HER ENDPOINT
“Rise up, Yuko, and greet the morning sun. Bed is for lazy, flop-eared dogs. The world awaits those who leap from their beds and run to meet it.” – mostly because I need this kind of motivation in my mornings *snoozes alarm for the 9th time*
“Christiankun, this is what I want to say to you. I do not hate the people who made the bombs. I do not hate the people who dropped the bombs. And I do not hate the president who gave the order to use the bombs. War is a great ugliness and terrible things happen and terrible things are done. Your people did bad things. My people did bad things. It does not mean they are all bad people. War is war.” – THIS IS POSSIBLY MY FAVOURITE BOOKISH SPEECH ABOUT WAR, EVER.
4/5 stars – would have been higher if not for the weird ending tangent.
Would I recommend it?:
Yes, definitely. It tackles the difficult topic with great consideration, and delicacy. If you’re put off by premade perceptions of the historical fiction genre, or potentially graphic scenes, it’s nothing of the sort! Although the stories were heart-breaking, the actual plotline was heart-warming in itself, and I think any age should use this book as a tactful opportunity to discover more about the Japanese reaction to Hiroshima, and the effects of it that are still prevalent to this day!