Sophie & the Rising Sun

Sophie & the Rising Sun
-by Augusta Trobaugh

224 pages (2002)

MY RATING: 4.5/5

delicate as a paper crane

Simply, yet beautifully, written and poignant, Sophie and the Rising Sun — a narrative, in the plaintive voice of various characters — takes place in a sleepy southern town in Georgia.

Sophie, a refined southern lady and middle-aged spinster, finds she has depleted her “young and beautiful years” caring for her elderly mother and aunts, after her beau, Henry, never returned from WWI. Finds herself quite resigned to the idea of never finding love at her age, Sophie, finds solace in painting by the town’s beautiful river, and meeting with her dear friend Miss Anne — that is, until Grover Oto moves into town, under mysterious circumstances.

Gentlemanly and kind, Mr. Oto, an American-born man of Japanese decent, is soon commissioned as Miss Anne’s gardener. Despite being limited to mere greetings in passing, Oto and Sophie form a suppressed friendship. Discovering they both share a passion for creating art, they meet weekly at the river, painting in comfortable silence as their connection to each other flourishes. However, between the antics of Ruth - the prejudiced town meddler - and the rigid racial and social structure of the time, it is almost guaranteed that the unconventional duo of Sophie and Mr. Oto will be expected to keep a formal distance. Forced into hiding from the enraged townsfolk, after the Pearl Harbour bombing, Oto experiences the full consequences of the attack, as Sophie and Miss Anne courageously support him. Will he and Sophie ever be able to realize their true feelings for each other, in a society that is so obstinate regarding their cultural differences?

Through the words and reactions of her characters, the author offers a unique perspective of the events at Pearl Harbor. In its own way, the entire substance of the novel serves as a social commentary on the war’s psychological fall-out — including the malicious treatment (thinly veiled as patriotism) of Japanese immigrants, American citizens, living in United States.

And yet, the elegiac cadences of Trobaugh’s prose, coupled with her tender imagery and ambiance, adds an emotional richness to this touching account. Lovely for a light, but unforgettable, weekend read, Sophie and the Rising Sun is highly recommended.

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  1. It really is a lovely book...I think your bookclub would love it. It's a bit lighter fare than Lisa See's "Snow Flower & The Secret Fan", but by no means lacking in good reading value. It's definitely one of the better light reads I've enjoyed in a while.

    PS: I'll try to figure out a way for it to accept your comments. Sorry about that.

  2. I wonder if this be a good for my bookclub to read? We read Lisa See's book a few months back and really liked it.

    ps: I can't leave a comment on your main blog, it thinks I'm spam :(