The Dialogue Society Book Group – Meeting 40: When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Free to Attend


In this session of the Dialogue Society Book Group, we will explore When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka on Wednesday, 23rd February 2022.


Based on a true story, Julie Otsuka’s powerful, deeply humane novel tells of an unjustly forgotten episode in America’s wartime history.

It is four months after Pearl Harbour and overnight signs appear all over the United States instructing Japanese Americans to report to internment camps for the duration of the war. For one family it proves to be a nightmare of oppression and alienation. Explored from varying points of view – the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train journey; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return home; and the bitter release of their father after four years in captivity – it tells of an incarceration that will alter their lives for ever.

Honest and gloriously written, will haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page. Brilliant

Elle Magazine (UK)

An intense jewel of a book written with clarity and beauty’

Marie Claire

Vindicates the suffering of the Japanese in America . . . a blistering first novel

The Times Literary Supplement

“While you’re reading this accomplished novel, what impresses you most is how much Otsuka is able to convey—in a line, in a paragraph—about her characters’ surroundings, about their states of mind, and about the mood of our country at a time of crisis.”

The New York Times Book Review

A compelling, powerful portrait of a terrible endurance. Terrific

The Times

About the Dialogue Society Book Group

The Dialogue Society Book Group explores the capacity of books to provide windows into different cultural and intercultural worlds. We will be choosing a series of quality novels to read and then to discuss together at relaxed, sociable gatherings at the Dialogue Society. Participants are welcome to suggest books for future sessions.

Participants will need to find a copy of the book chosen for each meeting and will need to read it prior to the meeting.

We will have a conversation about the book and our responses to it. Discussion may cover:

  • the quality of the storytelling
  • the authenticity and accuracy with which a historical/cultural situation is portrayed
  • our personal responses to it

You do not need to be an expert on literature or anything else to join in. The group should be enjoyable for anyone who enjoys a good book and likes discovering new ones.