The Buddha in the Attic
By Julie Otsuka
Read By Samantha Quan and Carrington MacDuffie
Oddly enough with an hour-long round trip commute, I haven’t been listening to any audiobooks lately. I decided on a trip to the library a couple weeks ago that I should look at the selection of audiobooks. It’s a small library, so I didn’t have high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised at the decent selection of books. In fact, last night I picked up two great audiobooks, books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time!
This was a really entertaining but brief listen. Unabridged the audiobook clocked in at about four hours. What this book lacks in length it makes up for in emotion. To say it packs a wallop is truly an understatement. The complexity of emotions, of many emotions to be more accurate, was stunning. It was, overall, a very heartbreaking story.
Despite the deep emotions, the hallmark feature of this novel that will have a lasting impact on me is the narration. Told in third person plural, it relays the story of many Japanese picture brides who came to America in the early 20th century hoping to find a better life or, in some cases, just to escape from their current lives in Japan. Their experiences were in some ways different, but the challenges and events followed a similar pattern. They were very powerfully presented as shared experiences using third person plural.
Writing 4.5 out of 5 stars
Otsuka’s writing is strong, and she employs interesting literary devices to tell this story.
Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars
Otsuka tells a fascinating story about the shared experiences of Japanese picture brides in an interesting and emotional way.
Character Development 3 out of 5 stars
In the context of this book, character development is a little hard to rate. After all, we don’t know the typical things we would about characters, such as names, defining traits and motivations. But we do know about their backgrounds and their experiences in America. About the struggles they had in Japan and the struggles they experienced in America.
Plot Structure 4 out of 5 stars
Despite what some reviewers think, there is a plot, it’s character and historically driven.
Cultural Impact 2 out of 5 stars
The cultural impact of this book is more in the topic (Japanese picture brides and WWII internment) and also in the third person plural storytelling, but, still, the cultural impact isn’t very impressive.
Total 3.7 out of 5 stars
Have you read The Buddha in the Attic? Do you agree with my review? What do you think of the idea of telling the story of multiple people using third person plural?
3 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Buddha in the Attic”
I also listened to the audiobook, and I really liked it. But, about 2/3rd of the way in, I started to get weary of the 3rd person narrative – it was a bit too repetitive. And then, it ended. I actually had to look at my iPod to see if something happened because I thought we were about to get into the 2nd half of the story.
The 3rd person narrative actually didn’t get repetitive for me. If the book had been longer, it probably would have; although, like you, I thought the actual story ended rather abruptly.
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