Diane Donovan – MIDWEST BOOK REVIEWS
Daughters Of The Dragon - A Comfort Woman's Story is set during World War II, when the Japanese forced some 200,000 young Korean women to be sex slaves (i.e. "comfort women") for their soldiers, and centers around one Ja-hee and her sister who are taken from their family for such a purpose.
Their suffering is terrible and when Ja-hee finally escapes, leaving her dying sister behind, it's only to find that the past haunts her. Violence seems to follow her as she finds and loses love in North Korea, flees to South Korea, and keeps secret her trials as a former comfort woman, only to find that the truth emerges time and again and threatens to destroy her.
Daughters Of The Dragon is no easy read, so don't expect a light leisure story of survival and endurance. Ja-hee's world is gritty, dark, and filled with struggle; and so readers are swept along into her encounters with Japanese brutality and wartime events, with Ja-hee's only hope lying in a mysterious comb that is the sole remnant of her birth mother and which holds its own story of hope and survival, passed down through generations.
Candid passages and descriptions are eye-opening and revealing: "I had become an ianfu - a comfort woman. I learned a trick, too. I examined the men's boots before they raped me. As I said, the Colonel had his boots tied tight. It was a warning sign. His type of cruelty was the worst. It was psychological as well as physical. After that, whenever I saw someone with boots tied tight, I knew I would be humiliated. But there were many others. A soldier with dirty, untied boots would be careless and quick. A soldier who kept his boots on would often hurt me. If his boots were clean and polished, he would want me to pretend I was enjoying him. Examining their boots was just something I did. But knowing what was going to happen to me did not help. In fact, it made it worse. It was like a torturer telling you what he was going to do to you next. By looking at their boots, I knew how they would rape me."
And being based on actual history, they hold all the more impact and importance not just for Daughters Of The Dragon, but for a deeper understanding of modern-day Asia and why the Japanese are still viewed with caution and anger throughout much of the rest of the region.
That the story of comfort women has all but been forgotten, buried by the Japanese government, is a shame. That it's resurrected here in Daughters Of The Dragon and woven into a fictional story of survival to make it accessible to a much wider audience than nonfiction could have achieved is an even more commendable choice.
William Andrews has taken a nearly-buried historical fact and used it to create a masterpiece of fictional encounters cemented by a strong central character in Ja-hee.
Readers who look for authentic historical meaning, strong protagonists, believable and involving dialogue, and a gripping saga will find Daughters Of The Dragon just the ticket. Anticipate brutal scenes, revelations, and struggles for survival and post-traumatic stress that follow the realistic paths of life in a powerful story of dignity, atrocities and roads to recovery.
It's a shame this story hasn't been fully explored before. It's a revelation that's long needed exposure, and it's outstanding that Andrews has seen fit to research and bring it to public attention now, in a format accessible to more than just history buffs and scholars.
Gayle Pace – BE MI OWN BOOK REVIEWS
I found the book to be quite an education on the history of Korea, The book was very well researched. Things such as Empress Myeongseong, Japanese occupation, military interventions in WWII and the countless millions who died or were left without homes. The story is told by the voice of Ja-hee, a "comfort woman". The story is based around a 14 year old taken from her family to service the Japanese military. She is strong and survives because of that strength. She was very smart, lots of courage and lots of strength. The author introduces us to her ancestors, her family and the descendants. Returning to Korea, her granddaughter is in search of her birth mother. Here is the person who will tell Ja-hee's story to the world. The book at times is very emotional, the characters are well developed, and as you read the book, you find that it is about history that should not be repeated.
The longer you read, the harder it is to put the book down. The descriptions are very vivid which brings the story to reality. Historical truths can be quite sad and this was definitely one of them. But all in all it had to be told. The book is about struggling to survive. Lovely cover.
Joan Adamak – JOAN’S MUSINGS and Amazon Top Reviewer
This book is one of the finest books I have read in a long time. It is a tragic and triumphant telling of the atrocities that over 200,000 Korean women (usually young teenage girls) had to endure at the hands of Japanese soldiers during WWII. At this time, Korea was subject to Japan and its soldiers and were helpless to deal with the situation. In this particular Korean family, the mother was sent to work long hours in a factory producing for the Japanese;, the father was taken by the Japanese and made to fight for them where he died; and Ja-hee, age 14, and her sister were told they were to work in a boot factory. When they got there, they joined other teenage Korean girls who were forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese military and treated in the most vicious manners possible. During war times, soldiers quite often become immune to human suffering and take out on the weaker their anger, and women most often are picked up and put into brothels or such and bear the brunt of this anger.
This story tells of those times, what happened to these girls, what public opinion was about them by Koreans, Japanese and American soldiers at the end of the war and how Korean split into North and South because of political division. Ja-Hee, using her intelligence, struggled to survive, including finding her sister after she believed she had been dead over sixty years. This story is well written, the dialogue is emotional and believable and the scenes are so well depicted, it is like the reader is there.
Overall Rating from Barnes & Nobel, Amazon, Smashwords, GoodReads – 4.80 out of 5 from hundreds of independent reviewers.