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Since 1945, generations of thoughtful people have considered and debated the morality of nuclear warfare in general and Hiroshima/Nagasaki in particular. The debate usually proceeds with the focus on loss of life, and this involves lots of zeroes, because there was no way out of WW II without lots of lives being lost.
That debate is fine as far as it goes, but if we're honest with ourselves we have to admit that we can't really comprehend what 100,000 deaths (or more) are really like. No one can claim to really appreciate the dignity of all those people when they're in such a large group, any more than a person can claim to really appreciate the dignity of all the people living in Beaverton, OR, Abilene, TX, or Erie, PA. It's too many people.
That's where this book comes in. By following six Hiroshima survivors, John Hersey's 1946 book told the world, very matter-of-factly, what it was like to be in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. What did one hear? What did one see? What was it like when the city was in flames? What sort of shape were the survivors in? How did the hospitals cope? In this updated edition, a 1985 article by Hersey (written in exactly the same style) provides a bit more retrospection, but nothing about the book is any way preachy. This is a book that will fill in details you've probably never imagined. You may still think that it was right to drop the bomb in Hiroshima (and indeed, some of the survivors in this book seem to agree) -- or not -- but whatever you decide, you'll know what you're really saying. Until you've read this book, you probably won't have any real appreciation of what nuclear warfare is really like.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
One of the great things about this book is that is that it really seems to be objective in the presentation of the bombing of Hiroshima. That said, you will probably never be nonchalant about the use of nuclear weapons after reading this book. The images that stick with you from this book are very troubling, in much the same way as "All Quiet on the Western Front".
While the strength of the book is in the description of the blast and the events immediately afterward, the subsequent lives of those who are chronicled leave the reader with a sense of hope. It is fascinating to see how some of those who lived through the blast went on to have somewhat "normal" lives years later.
Like it or not, nuclear weapons are here to stay and this is a book everyone should read to become more informed on the issue.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful