Thursday, January 15, 2004

Toward the Sunrise: Three Daughters in World War II

Judith Pella’s "Daughters of Fortune" series continues, with the third installment, Toward the Sunrise. Continuing where the story left off in Somewhere A Song, this book covers the time period from the summer of 1942 until the war’s conclusion three years later.
Toward the Sunrise assumes that the reader has read the previous books, and even that one remembers the specific events from the previous book. In the year since the last book was published, I had forgotten several of the specifics, such as Johnny Shanahan’s death and the latest results in the search for Cameron’s half-brother Semyon. Yet the narrative moves along without one needing all the details--and some past information, such as results of the search for Semyon, is mentioned later on.

Through the three sisters Cameron, Blair, and Jackie, the author covers World War II from three perspectives: Russia and the invasion of France; the guerilla war and POW camps in Southeast Asia; and the Japanese-American internment camps, including the riot at Manzanar on December 6, 1942. As indicated on the book cover, Cameron is arrested and sent home from Russia, and Blair captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp – but these events happen relatively late in the story.

I was deeply impressed by the book’s balance of varying political perspectives. So many people today know about the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII--and Toward the Sunrise covers that angle and mixed-race tensions and prejudices. Yet the author goes beyond that, to also tell the other side of the story: how the Japanese cruelly tortured their American prisoners, both military and civilians.

Toward the Sunrise shows marked character development in all three daughters as they are touched by the tragedy of war. This installment also has more than its share of sadness and grief, for a greater tear-jerker than the previous two installments. Yet through the suffering, the story resolves several relationship conflicts.

I especially enjoyed learning that the "Daughters of Fortune" series will continue, with at least one more novel coming out in the fall of 2004. Unlike many World War II-era historical novels, this series will continue past the end of the war, showing the family’s lives in the post-war years.

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