I stumbled upon Woman With a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine quite accidentally while going through instagram stories of people I follow. This was sent to @sumaiyya.books on instagram for review and my curiosity was aroused by the synopsis. The book is set during the days following the attack on Pearl Harbour in the 1940’s and is about an aspiring writer who happens to be Japanese in those times. But it is not that simple.
The book is laid out as a story within a story. It comprises of the book that a Japanese writer (writing under an American pen name), letters from his editor who is editing the manuscript for him and also a spin off that the author is writing as a companion or sequel to the book.
This book grew on me. It was a short read but it was one of those stories that stay with you and one that you suddenly think of while going about your day. Like I said this book starts off as a book within a book. The story is more of a pulp detective yarn where a professor is trying to find out who killed his wife. But suddenly he finds himself in a world that has no idea who he is and it is in fact a month or so in the future and everybody that he comes in contact with hates him on sight for being a Japanese.
We as readers are more clued in as we see the correspondence between the author and the editor about changing the story post Pearl Harbor, to make the protagonist non-Japanese and to turn it in to a pulp spy novel.
This book makes you think and feel a lot of things. It makes you feel for the author (the one in the book) as you get to know his story through the editors letters and get to know his life as a Japanese in America in those times. You also get to think about this question. What happens to characters or stories that writers leave unfinished or abandon partway through? Do they live on or perish? Come to thin of it where do writers get their ideas? McAlpine plays with these questions and our feelings quite well. I really really liked this book. I strongly recommend you to read this book if you can get your hands on it.
Rating – 4.5/5
I am not sure if I can recommend a book that is like this one. Maybe I’ll update this post when I think of something.