As a lover of fantasy, mystery, and thriller novels, reading a nonfiction book comprised of a newspaper report doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. However, Hiroshima was surprisingly different compared to other historical novels. Obviously, it’s based on a journal excerpt, but John Hersey managed to create a book from real-life situations of different survivors–all from a story-telling and personalized perspective. To say that the book was eye-opening or underrated would still be an understatement.
Published by The New Yorker, Hiroshima takes place in 1945 during World War II, with intricate descriptions of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and multiple remarks from traumatized survivors. Hersey focuses on six people specifically, recording what happened and how they felt both before and after the explosion. His writing was very smooth for a journal report; he wrote about completely different lifestyles diminished into pure survival to make each more comparable, almost like fictional characters.
As a forewarning, this book can get gruesomely detailed and saddening. Death lurks everywhere as the main character and it can become suffocating to read at times because it’s so overwhelming, especially when you know that this information isn’t fiction. Nonetheless, this novel holds such a big impact on its readers to this today, even when it seems so depressing.
I will admit that there are some parts where the book can drag in change in regards to the plot, albeit this book is genuine, not sugar-coated to make America look like the heroes compared to Japan. It wasn’t made to entertain, it was made to inform. John Hersey, an American journalist, managed to expose America’s wrongdoings and use his own experience of witnessing the aftermath as a lesson for future generations of our society.
Initially, the United States kept the Hiroshima bombing as a secret from the public, so it essentially revealed the horror and consequences of violence as a whole. The idea of innocent people wrongfully suffering from the hands of political views and ideology proves that the truth is much more terrible than fiction, but also much more valuable. This was a mistake in our history that Hersey wrote about to prevent such a thing from happening again–to look towards basic human decency instead of who’s right and who’s wrong.
No matter what genre one may interest in, this book is definitely worth reading. It stems from much more than a plot or pages of information, helping readers understand the heavy reality of our world.
– Natisha P.
Hiroshima by John Hersey is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.