Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Blog Tour: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment
Jennifer Cody Epstein
W.W Norton and Company
Paperback publication date: January 2014

'"It's war, buddy," he'd said. "Anything's possible."'

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment is a sweeping tale that follows three men as their paths cross and entwine to change the life of a young girl. It is devastating and harrowing but at the same time poignant and beautiful. From the blurb:

'One summer night in pre-war Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynold takes snapshots at his parents' dinner party. That same evening his father Anton- a prominent American architect - begins a torrid after with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. These three men will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of World War II's most horrific events - the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.'

Perhaps my favourite element of this book is the way the separate narratives weave and converge. I have a soft spot for multi-narrative novels and this one does it so brilliantly. Each narrative is different and self-contained so much so that each could form a novel in itself, but rather than staying separate they link in really subtle and interesting ways. This is definitely a symbol laden novel - there are objects and ideas that crop up in each narrative time and time again, like the hawk and the 'come home to me safely' ring. I really like this because of the way it links the seemingly disparate characters.

On the cover there is a quote from Vogue that talks about the novel's 'romantic serendipities'. I love the word serendipitous anyway, but it is actually the most perfectly apt word to describe the relationships in this novel. It is romances, love affairs and unusual friendships that link the various narratives together and gives an emotional power* to The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

It is not a book to read if you're in the mood for a jolly piece of light fiction. This is an emotional, powerful, often disturbing and frequently thought-provoking read. As much as I know about the two World Wars, I have never looked into the Japan element outside of GCSE history (that was a LONG time ago). There is this whole other part of the war that is utterly huge and utterly devastating. I really am grateful to Jennifer Cody Epstein for writing about the firebombing of Tokyo and educating me along the way.

This is a book that pull you in, shakes you up, and spits you back out again with a new knowledge of the past and a new outlook for the future. The easiest way to describe how I felt when reading this book is 'involved'. I was right there, within its pages, suffering the hardships and joys along with the central characters. It's a long time since a book held me that fiercely. If you don't know what I mean then just read it, like, now.

About the Author

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

For more information, please visit Jennifer Cody Epstein’s website and blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

For other stops on the tour take a look at the tour schedule.

Thanks for HFVBT and the publisher for providing me with a copy to review.

Have you read The Gods of Heavenly Punishment? If not, would you?

*I don't want to say it made me cry because I feel like I'm always talking about how books make me sob like an actual heartbroken baby. But, sod it, I'm not ashamed to admit that certain sections of this book made me positively well up. SO GOOD.



  1. I am such a blubberer when it comes to books so it always makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only one!

    I haven't seen anything about this one but I love the sound of it. Have you read Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie? Part of that was about the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki but it's also partly about Guantanamo Bay. It's definitely word a read. For some reason this book reminds me a little of that and I *loved* it so I'll keep my eyes peeled for this one!

    1. You are definitely not the only one! The slightest thing sets me off.

      I have not read Burnt Shadows but it sounds really interesting so I'll keep a look out for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I actually love when a book makes me cry -- that's when I really know how powerfully it's affected me. This is definitely a part of history I don't know much about, so this novel is quite intriguing.

    1. That's actually why I quite like to admit when things make me cry. If it's that powerful then it is worth a read, surely?!


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