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Nanjing Requiem: A Novel Hardcover – October 18, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379764
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,471,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John Jorgensen VINE VOICE on October 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, a few words on my background with this author. I was required to read Waiting: A Novel in college, and while I didn't mind reading it, I found it pretty dry and knew I would never have chosen to read it on my own. I did choose to read War Trash a few years ago when it was recommended by a coworker after we toured the Korean DMZ together one weekend. I started it, and while I didn't dislike it, it didn't grab my interest. Eventually I gave up on it somewhere in the middle chapters when another book which I'd been dying to read for months finally came out. I told myself I would return to it after I finished the new book, but I never did.

So I was a bit ambivalent about reading another Ha Jin book; somewhere along the line I came to associate him with dry, slow-paced, mediocre writing. The subject matter did grab my attention this time: A literary celebration of the heroes of the Rape of Nanjing is certainly an interesting premise. But I wondered whether the author could do it justice.

Did he ever! This is a wonderful book. It tells the tale of Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and acting president of Jinling College during the Japanese capture of Nanjing. Vautrin joins a number of other Westerners in making property in the Western district available for refugee camps, banking on the hope that Japan will be too concerned with maintaining good relations with the West to violate Western property.
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Format: Paperback
I read "Nanjing Requiem" authored by Ha Jin whose books had in the past received many awards and honors because its description leads me to believe that it is an epic which sooths the souls of the victims of the Rape of Nanking and tells of the courage of Minnie Vautrin. Yet, the book turns out to be a total disappointment. It appears to be a book written and rushed to meet a deadline; the storylines do not connect and a chop suey style of writing mixes bits and pieces of writings from other sources.

The book provides no insight to the real suffering of the victims or the courage of Minnie Vautrin. I do not expect or wish the book to sensationalize the horrors of the Rape of Nanking, but I also do not expect the book to turn the victims into insensitive vicious mobs either.

Maybe the author wants the readers to do some soul searching by showing decent people who at the point of becoming a victim of atrocity can be changed to nasty human beings during the Nanking Massacre. With the flat and robotic writing, the author fails to depict the passion deep enough to reveal the suffering of the soul of the victims. Worse, the victims are painted as thugs in some incidents.

Weaving the fanatical mentality of Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in the tragic Rape of Nanking era, instead of telling how the refugees helping each other, Ha Jin presents the refugees as heartless riotous mobs against a poor woman who stole a mug of rice to feed her 15 years old son jailed by the Japanese. This shows his complete lack of empathy and respect for these victims.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The intent of Ha Jin's new novel "Nanjing Requiem" is to bring the atrocities of the Japanese, during what is know as 'The Rape of Nanjing" to a wider public, as well as to celebrate the bravery of several Westerners who lived through this period and sought to stand up to the Japanese and protect innocent Chinese from slaughter. In particular the novel focuses on real life, Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and the Dean of Jinling Women's College, which she used to shelter thousands who sought to escape the atrocities.

"Nanjing Requiem" is a piece of historical fiction. In this genre an author takes a story of real and or imagined characters and brings the immediacy of their historical period to life through the interplay of history and the intimacy of the characters lives. Unfortunately as a pice of historical fiction "Nanjing Requiem" fails. There is no underlying intimate storyline. We merely have here a seemingly endless recitation of facts. For example on Dec. 8., Minnie went here and confronted the Japanese authorities. On Jan. 10 she went there and confronted the Japanese. There is no underlying story that holds the historical facts together and makes those facts real and immediate to the reader. The writing is so wooden that the endless description of brutality loses all emotional power to move the reader. I can only compare this novel to another work of historical fiction which is vastly superior, Ballard's 'Empire of the Sun", also concerned with Japanese brutality.

"Nanjing Requiem" sadly is a terrible disappointment, as The Rape of Nanjing is a story that needs to be told.
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