The Diplomat’s Daughter by Karin Tanabe

Set in Austria, America, Japan and China, The Diplomat’s Daughter is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of how three young people, whose lives are intertwined, are affected by war. It’s told from the perspective of Emi, Leo and Christian.

Emi Kato is a young Japanese girl who is multilingual, smart and talented. Due to her father’s job, she has lived in various different countries growing up. Emi met Leo when she was living in Austria and their friendship soon blossomed into a romance. It was in Austria that Emi first experiences the realities of the war, when Hitler and his soldiers invaded Austria. With Leo being a Jew, the imminent annexation of Austria only spelled trouble for him and his family.

After Austria she and her family lived in America and after the Pearl Harbour attack, America joined the allies in the war against Nazi Germany and Japan. Here Emily and her family finds themselves in an American internment camp where she met Christian. Christian was an American born German whose parents were betrayed to the FBI by one of their friends. The two fell in love, however they were separated when Emi and her family were repatriated to Japan.

The uncertainty of war, not knowing whether her letters to her friends ever reach their destination, Emi feared and worried for both Leo and Christian. Leo and his parents managed to escape to Shanghai with the help of Emily’s father. Christian was a soldier fighting for America in the Pacific while his parents were back in Germany.

The novel paints a harrowing picture of life during WWII.  The fear, poverty, hunger, extreme cruelty and utter despair seeps off the pages and it’s written in such a way that there’s no way that I could not help but be emotionally invested in the characters and their journey. A lot happens in the life of all three characters that change and shape the person they become, but it doesn’t affect the bond that both of them shared with Emi and how much she means to them. At the end of the war one man is left disabled and the other an orphan, yet you can still consider the ending of the novel as having a ‘happy ending’ for all of them. Only one of them can have Emi and you will have to read the book to find out who Emi ends up with.

The Diplomat’s Daughter is one of the best novels I’ve read this year. It’s not a secret that I love historical fiction about war time and this one offered so many perspectives in one book, from the perspective of a German, a Japanese and a Jewish person, but also how different countries were affected. I had tears in my eyes at several parts of the novel. I loved it and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it.

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