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Requiem Hardcover – August 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a narrative that alternates between past and present, Canadian author Itani, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Deafening, examines the internment of Japanese Canadian citizens durinWWIIand its impact on one family. In 1997, artist Binosuke Okuma drives from Montreal to the site of the camp on the Fraser River where his family has been interned when Bin was very y oung, and where his father made a decision that would cut him off from his family‚--îand permit him to fulfill his potential as an artist. But at first memories of Bin's wife, Lena, who died of an stroke, chase him. Accompanied by his dog, Basil, and armed with tapes of Beethoven and a bottle of whisky, Bin grapples with the anger and silence that swathe his experience of internment and separation‚--îwhich his wife had urged him to address. After learning that his aging father sits in a chair facing the door, waiting for Bin's arrival not far from the location of the Fraser River camp, Bin must decide if he can return to the father who altered his fate, allowing him, he hopes, to keep going, as a son, an artist, a widower, and as a father himself who had built his own family far away from the broken histories buried at the camps. This sparse and melancholy meditation on family, history, and the healing properties of art addresses a little-known chapter in Canada's history, though Itani failes to bring those events and his charactesr fully to life. Ageht: Westwood Creative Artists.

Review

A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year

"Remarkable . . . Understated . . . Requiem delicately probes the complex adjustments we make to live with our sorrows. . . . In this perfectly modulated novel, we see the emotional cost of suppression."—The Washington Post

"Itani writes with a delicate grasp of both the obvious and the unspoken, using ordinary words charged with extraordinary meaning to produce a serious book that nevertheless invites you to keep reading past midnight."—BookPage

"In Requiem, Frances Itani is at the height of her powers. . . . The Japanese-Canadian story has never been told with such passion, insight and telling detail. . . . Itani has told this story in amazing, cinematic detail. . . . [Requiem] is surely Itani’s greatest novel, although calling Requiem a novel does not do it justice. Requiem is a great work of literature from a determined author at the peak of her powers. It is also a sobering history lesson for all those Canadians who belittle other countries for their racism but are too smug and too blind to examine their own nation’s transgressions."—The Ottawa Citzen

"With Requiem, Itani has written an important and moving novel . . . told with painful and quiet eloquence."—Washington Independent Book Review

“Itani is an accomplished stylist; her prose is lyrical yet clear, her pace unhurried. . . . Itani’s empathy and understanding of human nature enliven her characters. . . . In this finely written, reflective novel, Bin’s physical journey and mindful recollections lead him to a place where he can choose to either hold onto his anger or make peace with his ghosts.”—Kim Moritsugu, The Globe and Mail

"An undeniably respectful and moving homage to a shameful factual episode."—Kirkus Reviews

"Beautifully rendered . . . Both tribute and a wail of grief . . . Lyrical and undulating, Requiem rages too."—Telegraph-Journal

"An evocative and cinematic tale . . . Poignantly, the story's determined brush strokes speak of quiet perservance, underscoring the sense of loss, of talent suspended. . . . With a precise, elegant style Itani avoids the maudlin, and delivers a taut novel."—Jane Christmas, Maclean's

"A beautiful, slow, meandering read that explores the past of Japanese Canadians in a particularly resonant way."—Sally Ito, The Globe and Mail (Favorite Book of the Year)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120229
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,385,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By jaffareadstoo on August 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully written novel focuses on the story of the internment of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia following the bombing of Pearl harbour, during WW2. The narrator, Bin Okuma, alternates the story of this internment, alongside his journey back to the camp some fifty years later. Told in three separate time strands, we are privileged to witness Okuma's modern day journey, together with his rendition of times past, and also the story of his marriage, to his recently deceased wife, Lena. His modern day observations, together with his dog, Basil, are perceptive and well described.

In many ways this emotional story tugs at the heart, the subjects of loss and redemption are sensitively explored and the novel abounds with quiet dignity. The clever intertwining of past and present is managed in a thoughtful and considerate way, which on the whole makes for powerful and poignant reading.

Frances Itani has a natural gift for perceptive story telling. Her innate ability to engage the reader, make her novels the type of book that stays with you long after the last page is turned.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By blakfoot on September 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed Requiem. It provided a wonderful revealing look into the Japanese internment in Canada. I now fully understand why we should feel so apologetic for this Canadian travesty. The author has a wonderful ability to develop characters and take you right into the hearts and minds of the family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MaryK on February 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book about a man reexamining his life as he travels across Canada to the internment camp where he spent his early years and he attempts to resolve his conflict with First Father. Canada followed the lead of the US in its treatment of its Japanese-Canadians. But as Bin reveals his early years we realize that his conflict is with his father. To say more would be to reveal the plot and underlying tension of the book. Read it--you won't be sorry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader on November 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this book fascinating because although I had read books about the internment of Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1942, I hadn't read about the experiences of the Japanese in Canada.

This novel is based around Bin Okuma, a Canadian painter of Japanese descent who had married a Canadian girl. They had one son, who was studying at university, when his mother suddenly died of a stroke.
Bin finds himself alone, his painting skills failing him. On the urging of his sister, he makes the journey to the West Coast, where his 'first-father' is ageing. (The significance of this title is explained in the narrative). Bin has refused to see him for many years but now decides that he might finally make the journey, something that his late wife had often urged him to do. This brings back memories of his years as a child interned with his family, and their previous life as fisherman - until the boats were confiscated and they travelled to a camp in British Columbia .

The book seemed to have three time frames: the distant past, when Bin lived with his family in an internment camp, the recent past, with memories of his life with his wife and son in Canada, and the current day, the road journey accross Canada with his dog, Basil. Unfortunately I felt the book was let down by the road journey, which didn't grab me, especially with the slobbery dog on board, but the other two parts were excellent.

Not an author I had read before, but I'd certainly read more by Frances Itani. Recommended.

Also read:
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (3.5 Stars)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey T. Atwood on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It is always a pleasure losing oneself in a book by Frances Itani. The theme of this novel resonates deeply with Americans, particularly Californians, who witnessed, or learned about, the internment of Japanese citizens during WWII; citizens whose lives were disrupted and most of whom lost their businesses and assets without compensation until most of the were dead (strikingly familiar to another internment of the time on another continent). Beautiful stories can come forth from shameful history. This episode should never be forgotten and this book will help keep it alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ann B. Penfield on May 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written book about a very painful episode in both U.S. and Canadian history, the internment of thousands and thousands of Japanese-American people during World War II. It is also a deeply moving account of a father-son relationship. It is also an acute telling of the development of an artist and how his art is an expression of his past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Arlena on January 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Author: Frances Itani
Published By: Atlantic Monthly Press
Age Recommended: Adult
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Book Blog For: GMTA
Rating: 4
Review:

"Requiem" by Frances Itani was wonderful written novel that gives a revealing look into the Japanese internment of the Canadians in British Colombian following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, during World War Two in 1942. This author has weaved this story into past and present with a 'heart felt family story shedding light on a painful period of Canada's history when those of Japanese descent were interned.' I felt this was a fascinating story how this man's journey back to his past with his friend...his dog and memories of his wife...along with him in the front seat.

This novel is of Bin Okuma who was a Canadian painter of Japanese descent and was married to a Canadian girl...had one son...wife dies...now going on a journey to West Coast...to find that his 'first-father' is ageing...having not been close to his father... Bin now decides to see his father...and goes the story and the part that I say to find out father you must pick up "Requiem" and find out what memories will come back to him during has childhood...with his family...their previous life as fisherman until the boasts were confiscated and then there travel to the camp in British Columbia. In this novel you will see how the author brings to the writer three time frames: "the distant past, when Bin lived with his family in an internment camp, the recent past, with memories of his life with his wife and son in Canada, and the current day, the road journey across Canada with his dog, Basil."

This was a different read for me because I hadn't read about the experiences of the Japanese in Canada.
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