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Radio 2 Book Club - The Woman in the White Kimono

The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be The Woman in the White Kimono, a fascinating historical novel by Ana Johns. It was released on 15 July and Ana will be on the show on Monday 19 August.

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We have an exclusive extract available for you to read. We also have some discussion questions for your group to use (warning – contains spoilers).

The Woman in the White Kimono

Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura’s prearranged marriage secures her family’s status in their traditional Japanese community. However, Naoko has fallen for an American sailor and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it’s learned Naoko carries the sailor’s child, she’s cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations.

America, present day. Tori Kovač, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation. Setting out to learn the truth, Tori’s journey leads her to a remote seaside village in Japan where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved The Woman in the White Kimono – here are some of their comments:

“This is a story of a girl mourning the loss of her father and coming to the realisation that he had much different life, before her and her mother. And the story of that other life runs in parallel throughout the book. It is a period of relatively recent history, which had a huge impact on the lives of ordinary people of the two countries on opposite sides of the world, America and Japan. It is extremely sensitive in how it tackles themes of love, honour, family, culture and the emotions it evokes can be heart-breaking. I am glad I read it.”

“I really enjoyed this novel. It’s a period of history and a culture I have very little knowledge of and I found it fascinating. The characters are very well developed as the story unfolds both in the present day and Japan of the 1950s. The conflict between tradition and the post war world is particularly well done. I felt the author handled the subject matter really well. There is more than one great love story here and incredible strength within the characters that keeps you with them throughout the story. Thoroughly engaging and beautifully written.”

“The book really drew me into the story of the main characters. I wanted to know what happened and to work out what the connections were. The story is set in Japan and focuses around the relationship between a Japanese girl and an American Navy sailor. The story is really well researched and is fascinating to learn all about the traditional Japanese customs that existed in the 1950s. The present-day story is about the relationship between a father and his daughter and really challenges us to think about people that we know and the real stories of their lives. A brilliant story, really interesting.”

About the author

Ana Johns, a Metro-Detroit native who now resides in Indianapolis, studied broadcast journalism and worked over twenty-years in the creative arts field, as both a creative director and business owner, before turning her hand to fiction.

Her debut Historical Fiction novel, The Woman in the White Kimono, while fiction, is crafted from historical events and real stories, including her father’s. She was inspired by his story of the beautiful Japanese girl he loved while enlisted with the US Navy and how her family had invited him to a traditional tea, but despite learning the required etiquette for the ceremony and practicing his Japanese, as an American sailor, he was deemed an inappropriate suitor and sent away.

A word from Ana

“I’m beyond thrilled that The Woman in the White Kimono is a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick. This is a real honour, especially knowing that The Reading Agency along with librarians – both distinguished groups who shape and influence avid readers – championed my debut’s inclusion. Now, a novel set in a little-known era of history and inspired by real events, people, and stories (including my father’s) will have an even wider reach. Thank you. I hope Naoko and Tori’s journey of love, loss, and family secrets resonates with reading groups and listeners alike.”

Get involved

Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 19 August to hear a live interview with Ana.

Have you read The Woman in the White Kimono? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #TheWomanInTheWhiteKimono.

You can also follow Ana.

You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list.

Planning to buy The Woman in the White Kimono for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can join the Radio 2 Book Club Facebook group, and also follow Jo Whiley on Twitter.


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