Review – Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

August 12, 2015 Biography, History, non-fiction 9 ★★★★★

Review – Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear WarTitle: Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War
Author: Susan Southard
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This was a difficult book to read, but incredibly well written and worthwhile.

I hoped to write a review of this book on August 9th, the 70th anniversary of the day an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Unfortunately, life interfered, but this horrific event still deserves to be remembered today. Drawing on extensive interviews, the author is able to share the stories of five survivors, from the time of the bombing through the present. She also places their personal stories in the greater historical context, both leading up to the decision to use the atomic bomb and following the way the decision was presented afterwards.

This was just as difficult a read as you might expect. The author related the survivors’ stories compassionately and without sensationalism, but the truth alone was hard to bear. The author is unflinching in her portrayal of the survivors’ suffering. Injuries are described explicitly and there are several black and white pictures. I think the author’s decision to include this unforgettable documentation of the effects of the atomic bomb was the right one. Although there is debate about the necessity of dropping even one atomic bomb, much less a second one, I think the utility is irrelevant. After reading this book, I can’t convince myself that using a weapon that will inevitably inflict unimaginable injuries on children could ever be justified. Not even to save the lives of soldiers.

The author does an incredible job putting this event and the survivors’ stories in a larger context. She clearly explains the decision-making process leading up to the use of the bomb. She also focuses a critical gaze on the way the bombing was portrayed or hidden by American and Japanese governments. The author showed where each individual’s’ story fit into this narrative and where their stories intersected one another. A map showing important locations made it easy to follow a long, complex narrative. This was a very well written book, but I recommend it most highly as a learning experience. This is a terrible event that we should all understand fully in order to make informed decisions in the future.

Do you read books that you know will include situations that are hard to hear about? Do you have any topics you always avoid?


9 Responses to “Review – Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War”

  1. Wesley @ Library Educated

    I read a classic book about the Hiroshima bombing (“Hiroshima”)because I had such little knowledge about what it was like to be on the ground when it happened. I think I’ll have to read this one to make a well rounded reading experience, even if it’s tough. Thanks for the review!

    • DoingDewey

      This book referenced “Hiroshima” and it sounded like it would also be a very informative read. I may have to pick that one up as well.

  2. Masanobu

    Thanks for sharing the book, because it definitely sounds like the topic is treated with respect. I don’t think I’m ready for it, though.

    • DoingDewey

      I understand that! I often pass on books about tough topics and honestly, this was harder than I expected because the stories were those of teens and children. I always pass on fiction where I know something bad happens to a child and knowing this was real made it even harder to read about. Like every book, it’s not for everyone.

  1. Nonfiction Friday | Doing Dewey

    […] reading Nagasaki, I’m interested to pick up a book the author recommended frequently and which has been added […]

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