A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton


Long Listed for the Baily’s Women’s Prize for fiction 2016.

Published by Windmill Books.

Publishers blurb

Amatetsau Takahashi has spent her life grieving for her daughter and grandson Hideo, who were victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.

Now a widow living in America, she believes that one man was responsible for her loss: a local doctor who caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter. 

When a man claiming to be Hideo arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to revisit the past: the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance and the realisation that of she had loved her daughter in a different way, she might still be alive today.

I was very lucky to receive this book from an online Facebook page #TBC, in return for an honest review. The publisher and the author having kindly supplied them with a number of free copies.

I  always worry in these cases, what I would say if I didn’t like the book. Luckily, I loved it! It’s a beautifully written and sensitively told story about love, hope and possible redemption.

The question that runs through the novel for me and forms the narrative around which the story is formed, is did Amatersau love her too much? And if she did, if she could have loved her in a more nurturing and selfless way, would her daughter have survived?

Amaterasu is a beautifully drawn character, shaped by the traumas of her past, which makes her overbearing love for her daughter understandable. Love is a powerful motivator for all the characters in the book and because love is not perfect, neither are their actions.

Told by Amaterasu looking back from her life in America to past events in 1945 Nagasaki, I found myself hoping with an feeling akin to need, that she and the mysterious young man who turns up on her doorstep, can find closure, but also the seeds of a new beginnings.

It’s a beautiful read and told we great skill by Jackie Copleton.



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