Book 3: “a book recommended by a family member”

I checked off ‘a book recommended by a family member’ to read one that my husband has been suggesting for a while. “Black Rain,” by Masuji Ibuse, is a story of a family struggling to exist and survive in the area surrounding Hiroshima in the weeks after the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Black Rain is described as a ‘documentary-novel’ – it is a fictional story, but draws heavily from real first-person journal accounts of the horrors of the bomb’s aftermath. It took me a while to get through this one, mostly because of the incredibly heavy and dark subject matter – I had to keep putting it down and doing something else to cheer up. But I’m definitely glad I read it; it brings up some really interesting themes about how people deal with tragedy and shock. The urge displayed by all of the characters to get back to work was particularly interesting to me; it showed a desire for a return to some kind of normalcy, even up to the main character trudging back into the ruins of the city multiple times in a futile effort to get a ration of coal so that the factory he worked at could keep running.

I was also intrigued by some of the descriptions – they really gave me the sense more than anything else that these passages were taken from real-life journals. I wouldn’t think, for example, to describe the mushroom cloud as having flashes of green light within it, since that’s not a commonly-accepted conception of what a mushroom cloud looks like. Nor would it occur to me to describe the horrible radiation burns as completely painless; one normally associates terrible bodily injury with pain so the idea that, consistently, these victims didn’t feel any pain was disturbing. Definitely worth a read if you have a strong stomach, and don’t mind putting it down every now and then and digesting in bite-sized chunks.

Up Next: A National Book Award Winner!