Review: The War Outside

This was an advanced reader copy for the September 2018 publication. There are minor spoilers ahead.

Title: The War Outside

Author: Monica Hesse

Stars: ★★★★

Historical fiction has a risk few other genres share. It walks the border between stark fantasy – in it being ‘real’ only in its lack of speculative elements  – and so personal as to leave the reader feeling like a voyeur. The War Outside tore at me like an ethnography. So – definitely the latter.

Hesse’s experience in nonfiction gave way to a beautiful drama unfolding in two tales from two women told decades later. Haruko romanticizes while Margot rationalizes. In the end, they struggle with their circumstances. Both are prisoners within an American internment camp. Both want to protect their family. Both are American – regardless of what others say – their families included.

Their relationship becomes a flickering possibility. It’s delicate and fragile. By placing in small excerpts from ‘current day’ Margot and Haruko, Hesse maintains the realism while foreshadowing the duality and non-duality which structures the lives of the German and Japanese camps. A further compartmentalization of people, so that one may look at another and say, ‘at least I’m not them.’

If you enjoy historical fiction relating to World War II or of love unspoken, this would be an excellent read for you.

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