A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
The year is 1965; Barbara is a lonely young American teaching English at Kodaira College in Japan. Her closest acquaintance, another professor named Michi-san, dies suddenly and bequeaths to her an old tansu chest, which is full of “Umeshu”–Japanese plum wine. Barbara is astonished to find that wrapped around each wine bottle is a delicate rice paper covered in Japanese writing. Barbara enlists the help of Seiji, a young man who lived next door to Michi-san and whose survival of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima has scarred him in many ways. As Barbara and Seiji embark on the laborious process of translating Michi’s papers, they discover it is the story of Michi’s life-her love, her shame, and most of all, her family. The intimacy that develops between Barbara and Seiji leads to an intense love affair – but then Seiji betrays Barbara in a way that even she couldn’t imagine. Plum Wine is beautifully written, full of Japanese folklore, ceremony, and tradition, as well as the devastating effects on the Hiroshima people just twenty years after WW II. Recommended for readers who enjoyed Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a leisurely-paced treat.
Review by Jamie