Thursday, December 7, 2017

World War Two Novel: When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Brainard

Today, December 7, is the 76th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which started World War II in the Pacific in 1941.

I wrote about the coming of age of a young girl during World War Two in the Philippines. When the Rainbow Goddess Wept first came out as Song of Yvonne in the Philippines, but Dutton/Penguin picked it up in the US. Later the University of Michigan Press published it as well. This novel has been in print since 1991. It is the most circulated of my books.  

 Here are some reviews of the book. 

The book is available from Amazon:

A fast-paced, sensitively written first novel about the psychological damage war wreaks, seen through the eyes of an intelligent, resilient young girl. During WW II, as Japanese forces invade her native city of Ubec in the Philippines, nine-year-old Yvonne Macaraig escapes with her father and mother into the mountains, where they stay in villages whose inhabitants are fighting the Japanese. Yvonne's father, an engineer, joins a guerrilla regiment. In wartime, Yvonne learns, people change. Her mother bears a stillborn baby in the jungle while Japanese soldiers lurk nearby, prevents an enemy soldier from stealing their chickens, then asks Yvonne's father to kill the prisoner of war he takes. Her father refuses, but confesses after he shoots the man for trying to escape that he enjoyed killing him, as revenge for the dead baby. When Yvonne's father disappears on a mission, the girl develops the ``practicality'' war requires. ``I wondered what we would do if Papa were really dead. Would the guerrilleros cast us aside...?'' She refuses to give up hope and ``learns how to will [her] father to live...centering [her] energy on keeping Papa alive.'' The author, herself born in the Philippines, skillfully interweaves realistic events with myths of women fighters and goddesses, as well as fantastic dreams. She relates dramatic events in an understated way, such as the family's ride up into the mountains on horseback with a spare horse carrying dynamite, and she enhances our understanding of Yvonne's pre-war world through the use of ironic details: In the Ubec cinema ``the roof leaked....From the loge, one could see the movie reflected upside down on the wet floor.'' Brainard's appealing characters are larger-than-life people who change before our eyes, yet remain utterly convincing.

And another review by Publishers' Weekly:

Yvonne Macaraig is an exuberant and mischievous nine-year-old when the Japanese invade her Philippine homeland in 1941, and so she begins her grim story of endurance and survival with a spirit of adventure and optimism. Her father, Nando, an American-trained engineer who's invaluable to the guerrilla movement, is often called away as Yvonne, her mother and a small family entourage flee toward presumed safety ever deeper in the jungle. Yvonne witnesses scenes of incredible carnage and silently notes the slow decline in her mother's health, but her spirits are buoyed by the Philippine folktales narrated to her by the family cook. These myths and legends, violent and colorful, extol the gallantry of ancient warrior kings or show the triumph of love and valor over subjugation. In simple yet deeply moving prose, Brainard's first novel presents similar acts of monumental courage: a doctor's sacrifice in the jungle; quiet defiance against terrorist threats. Gradually, Nando and his companions become aware that the U.S. is capable of betraying them-and that Philippine independence is a necessity. The strengthening of the national spirit; the loss of innocence in two generations-these themes are explored by the author, who was born in the Philippines, with persuasive conviction and stark realism. 

No comments: