“A crystalline meditation on the defining event of the twentieth century and its aftermath . . . Inventive and consistently challenging” –Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Mysterious and compelling. . . . An elegant, unnerving novel that illuminates the personal consequences of war.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Exquisite. . . . Bock’s achievement here is in creating characters with believably ambiguous edges, vulnerable people whose understanding of themselves and others is incomplete.” -Janice P. Nimura, The Washington Post Book World
“Bock has shined an illuminating searchlight on the terra incognita where the personal and the political intersect.” –Dan Cryer, Newsday
“A splendid, powerful book, written with authority and admirable control.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch “Assured and compassionate.” –Pico Iyer, Harper’s
“[T]his brilliant novel traces the lingering effects of the Hiroshima bombing . . . showing how war binds victor and victim as surely as scar tissue closes a wound.” –Rick Waddington, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Reconciliation, responsibility, blame and regret shift and fall in different patterns throughout this moving and thoughtful novel.” –Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe
“Dennis Bock began The Ash Garden long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, but it’s impossible now not to read his haunting debut novel outside the glare of that tragedy. . . . Bock sets a match to ethical issues that are reaching the flash point today.” –Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
“One can go further with this book, and say that Bock has learned just about everything that can be gained from Michael Ondaatje and Jane Urquhart in the use of compelling images. . . . Very, very accomplished.” –T. F. Rigelhof, The Globe & Mail
“This is a gorgeous, poetic novel, with scenes that stun the senses. . . . Bock makes us see and live these lives in all their uneasy compromise.” –Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune
“For all its worldliness, The Ash Garden feels intimate and interior. . . . [Bock’s] are the battlefields of conscience, the war away from the war.” –Annabel Lyon, National Post
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers The characters in Dennis Bock's thoughtful first novel find their lives revolving around the axis of an explosive act -- the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, and all of its shocking reverberations, from Japan to New York to a small village in Canada.
Employing the voices of three separate characters -- a scientist en route to Los Alamos, a woman under quarantine on a ship in the Atlantic, and a young Japanese girl watching as a plane slowly draws nearer in the sky -- Bock's tale wields a quiet power that builds steadily as he details the lives of these three characters and the repercussions of one unfathomable act of war.
Each of the characters in this work is scarred, whether physically or psychically, by what they have witnessed. And each of them has a story to tell another, until a perfect triangle is formed between the three.
From the first few riveting pages, Dennis Bock proves himself a literary talent worthy of the attentiveness his novel demands. Poised to stand alongside John Hersey's classic work of nonfiction,
Hiroshima, The Ash Garden is
a heartrending examination of the all-too-human dilemmas faced by the participants, both willing and unwilling, in a historic event that continues to shape our modern world and attitudes.
(Fall 2001 Selection)
Each panel is created with exquisite care, and the three portraits that emerge together illustrate an eloquent truth about the aftermath of war.
Washington Post Book World
No matter how far they travel from Hiroshima, the protagonists of Canadian author Bock's roomy, thoughtful novel are marked by the effects of the atomic bomb. For Emiko Amai, the imprint lingers on her face, in the form of burn scars from the heat of the bomb's detonation in 1945, when she was six. For Anton B?ll, a refugee German scientist who helped build the bomb, the scars are emotional, though he tried to transform his feelings into images in a series of secret films shot among Hiroshima's ruined buildings. For Sophie, Anton's wife herself a half-Jewish refugee from Austria there is the pain of exile, a debilitating illness and the heavy shadow of her husband's guilt. Though Anton claims that the bomb was dropped "to save lives," he remains acutely aware of the human cost, both to its victims and himself: "I know the world requires a certain payment from us... for the freedoms we enjoy. We have all paid." When Emiko confronts Anton in 1995 at a lecture in New York, he surprises himself by agreeing to participate in a documentary she's filming. He invites Emiko to the quiet house he shares with Sophie in Ontario, and as Sophie declines toward death, Anton tells Emiko all the ways he has influenced her life since Hiroshima. In his attempt to obliquely represent the overwhelming horrors of Hiroshima's destruction, Bock (Olympia) has created a group of characters with closely guarded emotional lives. When they reveal themselves, it's in flashes as brilliant as the splitting of the atom. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This compelling story marries life to death, guilt to innocence, and truth to deception through the entwined lives of two Hiroshima victims over a fifty-year periodAnton, a German scientist who helps invent the bomb, and six-year-old Emiko, whose face and family it destroys. When she is fifteen, Emiko is selected to come to the United States for a series of painful plastic surgeries. There she finds that film is her passion. While composing a documentary about Hiroshima, Emiko discovers that her American benefactor is the scientist who first saw her, her grandfather, and her dying brother in a Japanese hospital. Emiko learns that plastic surgery cannot heal her emotional trauma. Anton discovers that he cannot control the ramifications of the bomb. That Anton marries an Austrian with a Jewish father;Anton's wife dies of lupus, a disease whose pattern mimics the burning radiation sores;and Emiko's grandfather, a doctor, cannot save his own family add additional irony to the story. This historical novel that sometimes discusses war, sex, and love in graphic and pragmatic terms requires readers who understand symbolism and paradox. Emiko will have the most appeal for the teen audience. In 1985, John Hersey added a chapter to the original version of his book Hiroshima (Knopf, 1946) to explain what happened to the six people he interviewed. Bock, in tracing the lives of his characters, parallels some situations and attitudes that Hersey describes. Teens should read Hersey's nonfiction account, which provides the necessary emotional and factual context, before tackling Brock's provocative narrative. Reviewer:Lucy SchallVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
More than 50 years after the bombing of Hiroshima, that event still resonates as one of the defining moments of the 20th century. This novel explores the consequences of the bomb on the lives of three people who were directly touched by it. Anton Boll, one of the scientists involved with the Manhattan project; his wife, Sophie, the daughter of an Austrian-Jewish violin maker; and Emiko Amai, a documentary filmmaker and one of the bomb's victims. All three are key players in the events leading up to and surrounding the dropping of the bomb. Boll escapes from wartime Europe to contribute a critical piece of information in the bomb's development. Sophie is sent from home aboard the SS St. Louis and ends up in an internment camp outside Quebec City. Emiko, who loses her family and half her face in the bombing, is chosen to come to the States for reconstructive surgery in an act of postwar contrition. From its achingly sad opening to its haunting conclusion, this riveting novel explores the moral ambiguities of war while illuminating a shameful moment in our collective history. Highly recommended.Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
An intellectually demanding, yet emotionally affecting, first novel by short-story writer Bock (Olympia, 1999) tackles the large philosophical and ethical questions raised by Hiroshima. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, developing the three main characters' private histories since WWII as they move inexorably toward recognition, and perhaps resolution, of their connected fates. In August 1945, six-year-old Emiko Amai is playing on a riverbank with her younger brother. While he and her parents die, she survives the bombing horribly disfigured. At 16, she is chosen to have reconstructive surgery in America, where she spends her adult life. Her strength remains her ability to endure pain in silence. In 1995, now a filmmaker documenting the aftermath of the bombing, she approaches one of the scientists responsible, Anton Boll. A young physicist in 1940, Boll escaped Germany less for reasons of morality than because he recognized that his science would be better utilized in America. He ends up at Los Alamos and then in Hiroshima itself. There he begins to film what he sees, at first to communicate to his wife Sophie, then increasingly as a private record of the horror he witnesses. But in his self-absorbed pain he loses any sense of Sophie. A refugee from Austria whose family did not survive the Nazis, she finds herself desperately isolated. Like Emiko, she lives within a certain silence and with secret pain. Emiko ends up at Boll's rural home to view Anton's films just as Sophie enters the last stage of lupus. Bock does a lovely job of creating subtle, overlapping images-shadows, scars, elderly men's silhouettes-but his authorial reticence is even more effective: his charactersremain hauntingly elusive even as they reveal themselves. A shattering yet generous story not merely about survival guilt or scientific ethics, but the imperfection and resilience of the human condition. First printing of 60,000