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Review: Requiem, by Frances Itani

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Requiem, by Frances Itani
If you were living in Raymond in 1941, you would have seen Japanese Canadians arriving by train from the west coast to work in the sugar beet fields that supplied the Raymond sugar factory.
They didn’t come looking for work; they were part of a federal government program to forcibly remove Japanese Canadians from an area from which, it was believed, they might somehow aid the Japanese armed forces in an invasion of Canada.
It was wartime. Decisions were made that, in retrospect, were unwise and unfair. In 1988 the government issued a formal apology and some reparations were made. But, as Itani carefully documents in her book, an apology would never be enough.
While her book is a novel, it is filled with facts that have been woven into a story recounted by Bin Okuma, who, in the novel, is five years old when his family is uprooted from Vancouver Island and taken to a camp in the Fraser River valley.
There is no reason to believe her description of that camp is not historically accurate, but it is difficult to believe. Hundreds of people confined in a bleak environment, expected to be self-sufficient. But it happened.
Now a quick mention of another book, simply because it, too, is filled with facts.
Yrsa Sigurdardottier’s Last Rituals, also has a story line (more so than Requiem) and is chock full of little-known facts about medieval witchcraft in Iceland.
Too esoteric? Maybe. But interesting. And the murder mystery story is well done.
Those Icelanders. They have a 99 per cent literacy rate and not much to do in the winter. They do like their books.

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