Author: Christine Piper
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: May 30th to June 1st, 2014
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Usually, when it comes to history, particularly war history, we are only really interested in what happened to us, our country, who we consider our people. We always look at things from the way they impacted us. After Darkness shows another side to the story, to the history, of World War II.
Tomakazu Ibaraki is a Japanese doctor who moved to Australia before the war, to work at the Japanese hospital in Broome, trying to leave behind the demons of his past. He was accepted into the wider, diverse community and soon settled into life in Australia. But when Japan joined the war, soon all Japanese people were rounded up and interned in camps, labelled as ‘aliens’ and highly mistrusted by the Australian people – even though many of them were Australian-born and had never set foot in Japan. Others had lived in Australia so long that they considered it, and not Japan, their homes. Others were like the doctor, working to make their way in the world. Some of their ties to Japan were strong, some were not. But they were all people who just wanted to go home.
The different attitudes presented by the characters to the war and to the country that had housed them were interesting. Many of the interns alliances still fell with Japan but others, like the doctor, were conflicted. After living in a country side by side with not only Australians but other nationalities too, how can you rejoice their downfall at the hands of your people? But some of them did, and as an Australian this can be hard to comprehend. That being said, it must have been equally as difficult to have people turn against you simply because you were Japanese in a country at war with Japan. War does not make things easy on anyone and you don’t have to be on the front line to experience that in different ways. After Darkness shows us this.
After Darkness is beautifully written and moving. I appreciated the insight I gained to another part of the war, which happened here in my own backyard, that I knew nothing about and also to another point of view I had never consider. We are shown in alternating perspectives the life Ibaraki lived back in Japan and his time in the internment camp and we slowly grow to understand what brought him to Australia in the first place. He struggles with what he left behind and also how it has influenced his medical practice in Australia, both in and out of the camp. What has left him cold and distant from the patients he treats? The story comes full circle at the end of the book and there is a fantastic sense of closure to this book, without a guaranteed happy ending. While some of the characterization was not as strong as I felt it could be, this book is well worth a read. Fictional, but still feels very real. A solid four stars.