Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

Set on a small island that's located just off the North American mainland, this book tells the story of a murder trial following the suspicious death at sea of a fisherman. The book opens in the courtroom at the start of the trial, but doesn't spend much time there: each time a character in the courtroom is mentioned, we move back in time and find out more about their life. These flashbacks aren't necessarily related to the crime, but paint an increasingly compelling picture of the characters and community on the island, making their behaviour seem plausible.

The island is home to a large Japanese community, many of whom were placed in detention after the Pearl Harbor attacks until the end of the war, and the trial takes place in the 50's, with the memories of WW2 still fresh. The accused man is of Japanese descent, and although he served as an American in Europe, others on the island fought the Japanese, and so there is plenty of scope for tension based on racial prejudice.

I thought that the account of the storming of a beach by American forces in the Pacific was particularly powerful, and the love stories were well told. Not all of them have happy endings but they were very moving.

The way the story is told is a little bit frustrating at times, especially when it seems like something exciting might be about to happen in the trial, and you're zipped back fifteen years. But this wasn't too much of a problem, and the book was well worth reading. In both theme and feel it very much reminded me of "The Raven" by Peter Landesman.

Completed : 08-Sep-2003 (audiobook)

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