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Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel Paperback – Unabridged, September 26, 1995

949 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

This is the kind of book where you can smell and hear and see the fictional world the writer has created, so palpably does the atmosphere come through. Set on an island in the straits north of Puget Sound, in Washington, where everyone is either a fisherman or a berry farmer, the story is nominally about a murder trial. But since it's set in the 1950s, lingering memories of World War II, internment camps and racism helps fuel suspicion of a Japanese-American fisherman, a lifelong resident of the islands. It's a great story, but the primary pleasure of the book is Guterson's renderings of the people and the place.

From Publishers Weekly

First-novelist Guterson presents a multilayered courtroom drama set in the aftermath of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: snow falling on cedars
  • Paperback: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (September 26, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067976402X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679764021
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (949 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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215 of 226 people found the following review helpful By David Lister on July 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reviewer's Disclaimer: I grew up in the Puget Sound area and worked a couple of summers picking strawberries on farms owned by Japanese-American farmers.
Snow Falling on Cedars was an absorbing, thoroughly enjoyable read. At times an interracial romance, a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and a fictionalized chronicle of the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, this book pulls the reader into an accurate rendering of life on an island in Puget Sound. The disparate aspects of the novel are seamlessly interwoven into a narrative that allows the reader to embrace the plot, the characters, and the dead-on descriptions of the physical characteristics of the novel's setting.
The novel is narrated by Ismael Chambers, the publisher of the only newspaper on San Piedro Island, the fictional stand-in for Bainbridge Island, Washington. The islanders are, with few exceptions, either strawberry farmers or Salmon fishermen. When a white fisherman dies under suspicious circumstances, the evidence points towards a Japanese-American fisherman who was the last person to see the dead man alive. Ishmael's boyhood romance with Hatsue, the girl that later becomes the accused man's wife, provides fertile material for interesting flashbacks to the early 1940s, when virtually all of the island's Japanese-American population was carted off to internment camps soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
I have always believed that one of the true marks of a great novelist is his/her ability to create believable characters of the opposite sex. Many well-respected writers fail at this task. In this novel, David Guterson's portrayal of Hatsue rings as true as any reader could hope for.
If you have seen the film based on the novel, please don't let its substantial shortcomings steer you away from this book, which is a must read for anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.
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127 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Snow Falling on Cedars is an interesting, low-keyed book about a time and a place unfamiliar to most readers.I enjoyed a it lot, both for its language and its human insights. I would never have expected, however, that this book would generate such extremely divergent responses from readers. Some think it is the best thing they ever read and others damn it as a waste of time. There is no question that much of what the critical reviews say is true: the book is slow, it is very long on detail, it jumps around in time, it doesn't focus on the 'mystery' and the trial, and the ending is somewhat predictable. But none of these things can be criticisms unless the author intended the book to be more fast paced, plot driven, and have a snappy surprise ending. The readers are really complaining that the book is not what they wanted or expected it to be - some more traditional mystery, love story, thriller type book - the kind of books that the shelves and best seller lists are full of and that demand nothing from the reader and deliver even less.
This book, on the contrary, is an evocation of time and place. It is largely 'memory' even though it is not a first person narrative. It asks the reader to relax into a poetic reverie on who these people are and how they came to the situation upon which the plot turns. The author does not push the mystery element except as an excuse to uncover more information about his characters, their relationships and the origins of their current lives.
Not everyone enjoys this kind of book. Certainly those who gravitate towards Jackie Collins or John Grisham should not be expected to find this to their likeing. Even those who read only 'serious' literature have special tastes and only some will appreciate this.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Hilde Bygdevoll on April 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Snow falling on Ceidars" was my first novel by David Guterson. As always when I read a book by (for me) an unknown author I am a little extra excited. Gutersons' "Snow falling on Ceidars" did not disappoint me.
The story opens in a courtroom. Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American, has been arrested and is on trial for the murder of a local San Piedro fisherman. The core story follows the trial of Miyamoto, but the book brings in so much more. We get an interracial love story, a war story, and an unsolved mystery. All this is gradually and slowly unwrapped as the story about the people of San Piedro Island is told. Guterson has purposely chosen flashback as a way to tell the story to the different characters. An experiment that works quite well!
History has always fascinated me, and the topic on how the Japanese Americans was treated during World War II was especially interesting. I found the background information very helpful in understanding why the characters interacted with each other the way they did.
In summary this is a well-written novel, with realistic, flawed, sympathetic characters easy to identify with. At times very hard to put down.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
David Guterson has given us an amazing book in Snow Falling on Cedars. It is hard to categorize this novel as it's part murder mystery, part courtroom drama, part war chronicle and part romance.

The story begins in 1954 as a Japanese-American fisherman is on trial for murder. Kabuo Miyamoto is the chief suspect in the killing of fellow fisherman Carl Heine, because of a dispute over farm land. The entire book takes place on fictional San Piedro Island in Puget Sound. The inhabitants of this small island tend to be either gill-net fishermen or strawberry farmers. There are a number of Japanese on San Piedro, and there's an uneasy coexistence with the locals.

In flashbacks, Guterson takes us to life on the island prior to World War II. Living on the island could be hard, but rewarding. But things changed rapidly with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese men were sent to work camps. Soon after, the rest of them were relocated to internment camps. Many of the local boys (Japanese included) enlisted, and the author gives us glimpses of their war experiences. Those who returned home bore the scars of war, and these things set the stage for the murder trial.

This novel is so moving on so many levels. I was moved by the love story between Hatsue and Ishmael, two innocent teens who were kept apart by the prejudice of their parents generation. Guterson's love scenes were few, but tender. I was mortified by the ugly chapter in our nations past when American's of Japanese decent were herded into internment camps. Their treatment was deplorable. I was saddened by the continued prejudice toward the Japanese--even well after the war. My heart was also warmed by the heroic deeds performed by unlikely heroes.
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Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel
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