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The Teahouse of the August Moon

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Vern Sneider -  The Tea-House of the August Moon, book reviewThe Teahouse of the August Moon, by the American novelist Vern Sneider, is a gentle comedy about the American occupation of Japan after the Second World War, where the Japanese get the better of the Americans, the Americans organise the Japanese more efficiently, and everyone learns to love each other’s way of life. My fascination with this book began because it was a beautiful fairy story with a happy ending. Later, I reread it to enjoy the tidy way that everything worked out just fine: I do like the practical organisation of happy endings. I also reread it endlessly to get to the bottom of the mysterious geisha girls: why were they such a problem? They seemed so nice, and did their own sewing.

According to his obituary in the New York Times, during the Second World War Vern Sneider had been part of the American military government team that installed itself in Okinawa in April 1945, as an occupation force. He became the military commander of Tobaru, a small Japanese town of 5000 people. This book is based on his experiences, and must be one of the most gentle novels about army occupation ever written. It must also have been a whitewash, a sanitised recounting of a traumatic time at the end of war.


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The Gap in the Curtain

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The Gap in the Curtain , John Buchan, book reviewThe Scottish novelist John Buchan is the writer about whom I know the most. I‘ve been reading him, and working on him, on and off, for over twenty years. But I get bored with his most famous character, Richard Hannay, and with The Thirty-Nine Steps, which is his most famous novel. So, here’s a Buchan novel that isn’t about Richard Hannay. The Gap in the Curtain (1932) is a great read, for several reasons. It’s narrated by Buchan’s other great protagonist-narrator, Edward Leithen, who is a hard-working lawyer and politician. He has nothing to do with the secret services, nor does he take orders from the Foreign Office or the police: he is an independent adventurer.


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