Monday, April 22, 2013

Requiem by Frances Itani

Frances Itani's Requiem is the seventh book from the 2012 Ontario Library Association's Evergreen list of ten nominees that I've read. I may get around to reading the remaining three but the new 2013 list beckons. I'm glad I did manage to include this one, as it turned out to be one of my favourites (the other being Natural Order by Brian Francis).

The main subject matter of Requiem is the internment of Canadian Japanese during World War II. One source of Itani's material was her husband, who had spent part of his own childhood in such a camp. The novel alternates between the main character Bin's journey across Canada and his recollections of the camp in which he had spent his youth. Reading this book was eye-opening for me. It is hard to believe that such atrocities could have been committed by the Canadian government against its own citizens. (The government did finally issue a formal apology in 1988.) Another aspect of the novel that I loved is the treatment of Beethoven's music, which figures largely in the protagonist's life. Requiem is a beautifully written historical novel that explores loss, the meaning of family, and the power of music.

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