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Fifteen-year-old He-Seung is full of fire, ready to take on these Japanese Since occupation, the Japanese have eradicated the Korean language, names, even the country's flower. Now they are seeking Korean boys as volunteers for their army. When his father is arrested by the Japanese, however, He-Seung must swallow his hatred of the enemy and volunteer for the military. Even harder, he must leave his mother and baby brother He-Dong to fend for themselves.

The story lends an eyewitness perspective to events as they unfold. The result is a work that speaks volumes about the power of faith. However, it's not simply a series of horrible vignettes, but rather shows how each family member coped with what they were dealt and how they were changed by what they experienced as individuals and collectively. There is so much packed into this book, yet it reads smoothly: The Korean folk tale of the Story Bag plays a big role, both directly and symbolically. The chapters are short and alternate between the three characters making the book compulsively readable.

Quotes from historians and the big players of the day begin each chapter which gives context to the chapter and the book over-all. You get a feel for the attitude and prejudices of the period. But mainly it's caring about these characters that made the book one I couldn't wait to get back to reading.

Nagoya Arsenal Bayonet(japan) & Model 1874 Gras Epee Bayonet(france)

It also whetted my appetite to learn more about Korean history and for some kimchee! Mar 07, Lloyd Russell rated it really liked it. First of all, the subject matter of this book is too serious for my normal snark. So I will dispense with it - for this one time only! The book talks about Seoul, Korea in The country is under the control of the Japanese and has been since But, now, during the war, the Japanese have done away with the Korean language, Korean names, and even Korea's national flower. On top of that, the country's teenage boys, 16 and up, are being given a strong "suggestion" to join the Japanese army.

It's a very tumultuous time for Korea's citizens. Blossoms and Bayonets is based on the life of the co-author, Hi-Dong Chai, who is a young boy during the war. It's a gripping story and is made even more so by the fact that many of the characters in the book, including himself and his family, are real people. I learned so many things from this book. As little as I know that I know, I was still blown-away by how much less than even that I knew make sense? Here are some of the details I learned from that time period: The Koreans hated the Japanese for the occupation of their country.

This happened because the U. It just so happened that the deal was made one day before Japan surrendered.


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Christianity was just beginning to show up in Korea. The unofficial religion at the time, as imposed by Japan, was emperor-worship. Japan's intention was to take over the world. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a short quote or report from the Japanese or the U. I learned a ton from these chapter beginnings. This book is not just about war and suffering.

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Blossoms and Bayonets: A Story of Love, Faith and Courage Under Japanese Occupation

There are many typical family moments, especially between the middle boy and the younger boy the older son is out of the area , who are 15 and 6 at the beginning of the story. In fact, I appreciated that the year old is not always nice to the 6-year old. That seemed normal to me. But it is fascinating to see how a traditional Korean family operated, trying to maintain their customs in the middle of a war and an occupation. There are also some emotional moments.

Like when the middle son connects with a neighborhood girl. And then reconnects with her after the war.

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And there's a scene at the end that was a real tearjerker. I also very much liked the relationship that both sons had with best friends. The relationships in this book are what largely make the book work. Do you remember in my last post when I said that there are moments in many of the books I read where I nod or yell out loud, among other reactions? Well, in this one, very late in the book, I actually said out loud: Hi-Dong Chai was asked: How can Americans - and those of other cultures - relate?

No matter where you live or what your background is, these are things that we can all relate to, understand, and be inspired by. Americans will also be reminded to be grateful to live in a country which is beautiful, powerful, and free. May 07, Monika rated it did not like it Shelves: Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall: Based on the true story of co-author Hi-Dong Chai, Blossoms and Bayonets is the fictional coming-of-age story of year-old He-Seung, the middle child in a Korean Christian family in After his father's arrest, He-Seung must leave his mother and baby brother behind as his family and country are torn apart.

Told in alternating first-person perspectives, this novel gives a personal account of Japan's occupation of Korea, which invol Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall: Told in alternating first-person perspectives, this novel gives a personal account of Japan's occupation of Korea, which involved all the trademark assimilation tactics of colonization: Anything Koreans identified with was stripped away, declared illegal, and replaced with the Japanese equivalent. Actual quotes from Japanese propaganda start each section, which makes for a haunting blend of history and fiction.

I really wanted to love this book, but sadly, it didn't click with me. The narrative prevented me from connecting with the characters; strange, because I normally love books written in first-person and with changing points of view, as was the case here. Instead, the dialogue both inner and outer felt awkward and artificial. And for some reason, I couldn't get past that. I wanted it to envelop me, and honestly, I believe that that would have been the case had the novel been written in third person.

That being said, I can't help but wonder if my annoyance with something that feels seemingly minor had to do with timing, especially since I'd just finished two back-to-back phenomenal reads. The storyline and setting of Blossoms and Bayonets are quite wonderful, and aside from the dialogue, the characters themselves still felt very real to me.

I would like to give this book another try in the future. Other readers have raved about Blossoms and Bayonets, so be sure to check out the other reviews on Goodreads for different perspectives. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. May 10, Darth Vix rated it it was amazing. In Blossoms and Bayonets, we follow the lives and experiences of the Chai family and also get glimpses into the lives of those surrounding them. This is something that I really enjoyed as opposed to just experiencing the story through just one perspective.

It made the st In Blossoms and Bayonets, we follow the lives and experiences of the Chai family and also get glimpses into the lives of those surrounding them. It made the story more personal for me. This was nothing short of an amazing story. Reading this book was a truly humbling and eye opening experience. It was honest, angry, emotional, beautiful, tragic and encouraging all at once for me.

I ended up looking both authors up and found their websites…I am so interested in following both of their work from here on out! The last line of the story was so heartbreaking to me and the sad thing is that the issues that are written about in this book are issues that this world still struggles with to this day. This book makes you remember events of the past, reflect on current events and implications for our future.

It is a tribute to all those who suffered during this time and who continue to suffer like the people in this story. Haunting and beautiful…just beautiful. This book is definitely a must read, especially if you are into reading historical fiction, war fiction, war memoirs or just memoirs in general. You will not be disappointed. Originally posted this at msnoseinabook. May 02, Priscilla rated it it was amazing. The Japanese Occupation is a historic moment.


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I learnt about it when I was in primary school and my dad ocasionally talks about it during mealtimes. Fifteen year old He-Seung comes from a religious family. Unlike He-Seung, his parents believe that praying is the ultimate solution — the group looks for G The Japanese Occupation is a historic moment. I originally hated He-Seung. As the oldest man in the family, He-Seung is left in charge. Because desperate times call for desperate measures, He-Seung, along with his best pal, Gong-Tae, join the Youth Corps.

I find Blossoms and Bayonets exhilarating, especially the last 80 pages — you will not be able to put the book down. And just when I thought the worst is over, the ending completely shocked me. Apr 08, Emily rated it really liked it. It changes perspectives between two brothers and their mother.

At first the mixture of Korean words had me checking the cheat sheet at the front of the book but then I got it. It was never hard to tell the narrator's apart and I appreciated the different viewpoints. My only complaint was that we didn't get to follow along with the oldest, He-Seung while he worked for the Japanese doing grunt work during the war. I think that story would have been interesting if not disgusting to hear. However, it is based off the life of one of the author's and he was not the brother who was conscripted so that may be why.

It was very interesting to learn about how the Japanese treated the Koreans and how people's lives were ruined in South Korea during this time. It was just a beautiful story and my words cannot do it justice. I find it harder to glow about books that I enjoy than books I didn't really care for!

And one of my favorite signs of a good book, I was SO not ready for it to end!

I found the religious aspects of the book very interesting as well. Especially since the narrator's were Christian and that was what got them into their predicaments as they Japanese were promoting emperor worship only. I also liked reading the quotes at each chapter beginning from different sources throughout the time period on the state of the war.

I just can't really say it any better than that!


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  • May 13, Sigrid Fry-Revere rated it it was amazing. One of my best reads in years. Blossoms and Bayonets drew me right in. I also loved the juxtaposition of the historic quotes that graced the beginning of every chapter with the true to life real life stories of what the characters were experiencing during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The book exemplifies the true art of storytelling.

    The quotes range from Japanese ministers and radio announcers to Churchill and General MacArthur and ea One of my best reads in years. The quotes range from Japanese ministers and radio announcers to Churchill and General MacArthur and each hints at a parallel story without any further explanation, letting our imagination fill in the gaps. This book definitely meets my spine tingle test — meaning there are revelations in the story that stirred emotions in me even before I fully understood what was going on. Oct 22, Nona Mock rated it it was amazing. But once I started the book I could not stop.

    As an author, I had questions in my 1st book, Chopstick Childhood about war. Definitely a 'Goodread' for everyone. May 13, Ann Morgan rated it it was amazing. This book had me from Page 1. It's very hard to put down, but I'm loving it. Thank you Sigrid for recommending it to me! This book is beautifully written. I agree with my friend, Sigrid, though - I wish it were non-fiction, though I'm sure it's very close to the truth. Sep 07, Jaleh Hobson rated it it was amazing. Beautifully written novel, I highly recommend it.

    I didn't know the history behind it, very informative. May 28, Aurora rated it it was amazing Shelves: Jun 03, Mel Mayberry rated it it was ok. I really wanted to love this book. I wanted more history, less day-to-day, rather ho-hum diary. I was glad when I finished and could move on to something else. Nov 29, Michell rated it it was amazing Shelves: Mike rated it liked it Jan 20, Valerie rated it it was amazing Apr 18,