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A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

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May 2016 Debut of the Month.

Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

A bittersweet, page-turning love story which jumps back and forth in time. It tells of a Japanese couple, Ameterasu and Kenzo, now living in America and the loss of their daughter and grandson after the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. We learn of Ameterasu’s great love before she married and then of their daughter’s great love. The identity of these men is at the centre of this tale. We start it as a very disfigured man arrives on widowed Ameterasu’s doorstep claiming to be her grandson. So the past is revealed to us in dramatic bursts and Ameterau tells us of the emotional conflict between her and her daughter: so sad. At the beginning of each chapter there is a Japanese word and an explanation of its meaning and usage, not always relevant but always interesting, hence the title. Highly recommended. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Jackie Copleton you might also like to read books by Lisa See, Amy Tan and Anchee Min.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. Click here to read the full reviews.

  • Rosie Watch - 'The story is beautifully told and as with any great story the overlapping plots are wonderfully interlinked and resolved by the end of the book.'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'This is a book that will have you reading late into the night and it's dream like quality and descriptive writing will have you wishing it was longer. Once read, never forgotten.'
  • Melanie Chadwick - 'Tragic loss, unassuageable grief and guilt, secrets and fierce love combine to make this a compelling tale.'
  • Susan Burton - 'A well written and moving book.'
  • Alexandra Harper-Williams - 'A thought-provoking novel about one woman’s journey towards forgiveness and understanding...What a wonderful debut by Jackie Copleton.'
  • Rebecca Cockeram - 'Excellent story of love, loss and family...A thoroughly good read I'd highly recommend.'
  • Josie Barton - 'I especially enjoyed reading the snippets of quotations which head each chapter; they are quite intriguing and for me, became an integral part of the story telling.'
  • Tracey Copeland -' makes Amaterasu's account come across as dishonest unbelievable and made me feel unable to connect with her family story.'
  • Sue Broom - 'An intriguing blend of romance and historical fiction.  An unusual and compassionate story of a family devastated by the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945.'
  • Helen Appleby - 'This novel is a story of loss, hope and forgiveness.'
  • Val Rowe - 'A compelling and extremely emotive first novel from Jackie Copleton. I could not put it down.'
  • Linde Merrick - 'Jackie Copleton has built upon her intimate knowledge of the Japanese way of life to craft a sensitive exploration of the pain of love, betrayal, guilt, parenthood choices, family and forgiveness. '
  • Ian Tyreman - 'The story unwinds gracefully and cast although small in number draw you in and you feel part of drama as events unfold...A most interesting and addictive read.'
  • Phylippa Smithson - 'Very absorbing novel based on a period of history – the atomic bomb attack in Japan – and it’s far reaching consequence on one family. Truly heart-stopping stuff.'

Win a Family Break to Salisbury!

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A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016. A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB PICK. Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Piano Teacher, in the best way. (InStyle). Amaterasu Takahashi has spent her life grieving for her daughter Yuko and grandson Hideo, who were victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. Now a widow living in America, she believes that one man was responsible for her loss; a local doctor who caused an irreparable rift between mother and daughter. When a man claiming to be Hideo arrives on her doorstep, she is forced to revisit the past; the hurt and humiliation of her early life, the intoxication of a first romance and the realisation that if she had loved her daughter in a different way, she might still be alive today.

Browse inside this book


'Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Piano Teacher, in the best way' InStyle

'An absolute must. Gripping from the first page, you'll not want to put it down' Marie Claire

'A masterfully written story of loss, hope and forgiveness.' BBC Radio 2 Book Club

About the Author

Jackie Copleton

Jackie Copleton lived in Nagasaki and Sapporo where she taught English before returning to England and becoming a journalist. This is her first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

5th May 2016


Jackie Copleton

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Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone


304 pages


Family Drama
Debuts of the Month
Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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