Book Review: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Book Review: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton


Genres: Historical Fiction, Cultural 

Main themes: Forgiveness, Family

Rating: 4 stars

Pika, meaning brilliant light. Don, meaning boom. Pikadon is what arrived on 9th August 1945 in the city of Nagasaki, and claimed the lives of Amaterasu Takahashi’s beloved daughter Yuko, and grandson Hideo.   

Nearly 40 years later, Amaterasu is living in America but still hasn’t found peace from all the things she could have or should have done before that atomic bomb fell and took away her chance to make things right. So Amaterasu is beyond shocked when one day, a heavily scarred Japanese man appears on her doorstep claiming to be her dear Hideo. How can Amaterasu possibly believe it’s really him? With the assistance of a series of diary entries from Yuko and letters written by a doctor, Amaterasu is forced to confront her past, filled with memories she’s been trying to suppress for years and years.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding was such a great story! Being a fan of historical fiction and with an interest in Japanese culture, this novel was a great match for me. I didn’t know too much about Japan during World War II, and the after effects of the atomic bombings and so it was nice being given a perspective on this particular historical event within the context of Amaterasu’s story.

Amaterasu’s story was one of heartbreak, pain, love, and forgiveness. The plot delves deep into the broken relationship between mother and daughter, and how sometimes a painful past can blind us into making us think we’re doing the right thing for the ones we love. No one can ever really know if what they’re doing is the right thing, but losing someone can make our actions seem unforgivable. I like that with Amaterasu’s character we see that it’s never too late to have a change of heart, to forgive and know that you too deserve to be happy again.

And so I would definitely recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of historical fiction, and has an interest in Japanese culture. This is a worthy debut novel by Jackie Copleton who’s managed to weave such an compelling and emotional story through her lyrical and captivating writing style. Curiosity about the characters and their lives will keep you turning each page for more.


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