Book Reviews: Snow Falling on Cedars
Thursday, January 13, 2011Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson
Set on a small island off the coast of Washington, this novel is a murder mystery, tale of forbidden love and war story all rolled into one. A decade after WWII a Japanese man is on trial for the murder of a local fisherman and the tight-knit community must face their own prejudices as he is put on trial. Land feuds and jilted lovers from the past haunt the trial and a snow storm descends on the island as the courtroom heats up.
I really loved the first half of the book, then in the second half dwelled on badly written war scenes and unnecessary sex details. Do I really need to know that the prosecutor on the case is impotent? We know nothing else about his character, he’s mentioned only a few times, but for some reason the author gives a detailed description of his sexual frustration.
Other than that complaint, I really enjoyed the book. If it had been pruned a bit more it would have been great. The story paints a powerful picture of underlying racism and prejudices, demonstrating how dangerous they can be to a society.
There’s one section I found particularly thought-provoking. Two men who played together as children, talk as adults. One is a Japanese-American, the other Caucasian and the white man confesses he has a hard time dealing with the fact that he was trained to fight and kill people who look just like his friend during the war. His Japanese-American friend responds by saying, so did I! I killed blonde Nazi who looked just like you.
For some reason I’d never quite thought about that. American often vilify an entire race (right now it’s Middle-Eastern people) because we’ve fought wars with people from that country. But evil can take on any persona and the Nazis were as lily-white as they come. How interesting that that never seems to bother people.