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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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