Confession time: I asked for this book for Christmas thinking I was asking for something different but equally snow and crime themed. However I was not disappointed with my accidental choice.
Snow Falling on Cedars is a 1950s whodunnit set on a small American Island, San Piedro, off the coast of Chicago. At the centre of the mystery is Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American man accused of murdering Carl Heine on a September night while they were both off-shore on separate fishing expeditions. The evidence seems pretty damning but with Kabuo maintaining his innocence the islanders are settling in for a lengthy trial.
This is a story which spans decades telling the stories of the islanders not only during the trial but also the story of the war that shaped their community and changed everyone’s lives forever.
I’ve read stories of life on the front line before but something this book included that I only had the vaguest idea about was the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Within days of the attack on Pearl Harbour public opinion began to turn against the Japanese community on San Piedro and just weeks later they were rounded up and shipped off to camps where they were to spend the rest of the war. This was the case for up to 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were residents of the USA between 1942 and 1946 because their loyalty was seen as divided – after all, ‘A Jap’s a Jap’ so said Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Command and the man in charge of the internment. As I say I was vaguely aware that this had occurred but it was kind of hard to believe and seeing it happen to characters I felt I knew brought it home that this was a real thing that happened to 1000s of people. That fact still blows my mind but a part of me is surely better off for knowing it.
But I digress. Guterson’s writing is a little long-winded at times and the plot chopped and changed seemingly at random but on the whole I liked his characters and I did enjoy the fact that he keeps you guessing until the very last minute.
But above all this book left me with a hankering for snow and strawberries. Probably not a combination I’m going to see anytime soon.