The Kimono Song

Written by T.C. Kuhn
Review by Anne Marie Brear

The Kimono Song is set in Manila in 1945, but with flashbacks to 1942. The story starts with the main character, Captain Helen Williamson, a nurse in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps, going on a bus journey after the war has finished and she reminisces about the last three years of the war.

In 1942, serving in a military hospital for America soldiers, Helen suffers a personal loss, but her grief has to be put to one side as the Japanese Army sweeps across the Philippines. Helen and her fellow nurses are taken prisoners for three years, needing to deal with brutality, primitive conditions, lack of medical supplies, the bland diet of limited food and subsequently the numerous deaths that result.

Despite the harsh conditions, Helen manages to find solace in nursing the ill and infirm within the make-shift hospital inside the walls of barbed wire. Although hating the Japanese, there is one man, Ito, who comes to take charge of the camp, and with whom Helen learns to respect and a friendship grows. Having experienced working in Hawaii, he understands the Westerners, and Helen in particular, he finds intriguing. He asks her to treat his soldiers and she agrees, hoping she can convey information back to her own people. Unintentionally, they find their feelings towards each other grow. Helen is in mourning, Ito is missing his wife. There are consequences of their actions.

However, I did not understand Helen’s reason for the bus journey to visit someone who did not need visiting. To have written the story as it happened would have been perfectly acceptable without the flashback element.

The research seemed authentic, and the characters were three dimensional. The American dialect was a little over the top in places but overall, The Kimono Song is worth reading.