Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: The Rape of Nanking

Author: Iris Chang 
Title: The Rape of Nanking
Description: Iris Chang wrote this book to tell the world what happened in Nanking at the dawn of World War II. After occupying the city, the Japanese proceeded to savagely kill nearly all of the civilians who survived and remained in the city. Chang’s Chinese parents told her about the Rape, and she was surprised that no one else knew about it.
Writing style: This is documentary non-fiction. There have been those who have challenged Chang’s sources and accused her of exaggerating, but even if the figures in the book had been exaggerated, this episode of history would be shameful and something not to be forgotten. The book does include graphic, gory (and sexually explicit) photos.
Audience: The book would probably appeal to WWII history buffs and those interested in Asian history.
Major ideas: Chang covers the military background and operation, the actual atrocities (with some pictures), some of the westerners (including a Nazi) who acted courageously to save as many of the Nanking civilians as they could, and the aftermath, including the cover-up by the Japanese.
Wrap-up: Obviously, this book wasn’t pleasant to read. I was pretty taken aback to realize that I knew nothing about this chapter in history. I’m not going to save this for a reread, but it was a worthwhile use of my time. Those of you who read this blog from time to time know that this book isn’t comfortably within my typical reading habits (it was one I received for free from Penguin), so I’m in a spot to know how to rate it. I’ll rate it based on how I liked it (2/5*) and the author’s skill in writing it (4/5*). (Sadly, the author, Iris Chang, committed suicide not long after the book was published.)

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