James Michener wrote the novel, but his wife, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, deserves a lot of the credit; she did the research that brought the novel to life. I was stationed in Korea in the late 1950s when marriages between American servicemen and local women were still strongly discouraged. Still, many young soldiers found the women to their liking, and it was impossible to stop marriages. The novel actually takes place in Japan in 1952, when military men could marry young Japanese girls, but not take them back to America with them. The story follows Major Gruver and one of his men, Airman Joe Kelly. Kelly marries a young Japanese girl against Major Gruver’s wishes, but he doesn’t interfere with the wedding. This causes problems with the commanding general, the father of the girl Gruver plans on marrying. It causes a rift in Gruver’s own wedding plans to the general’s daughter. After meeting a beautiful Japanese woman, he knows now what has driven young Kelly to risk his freedom.
The novel was a real treat, and captured the time perfectly. Major Gruver, the son of a 4-Star General, is on the fast track to the general ranks himself. He jeopardizes that career when he meets Hana Ogi, a beautiful Japanese dancer, and before he knows it, he’s madly in love with the actress. Both face rejections, however. He from the military, and she from her career on the stage. WWII was still in the memory of both nations, and the idea of young G.I.s marrying Japanese women was strongly discouraged on both sides.
James Michener was a veteran of that war, and spent considerable time in the region. His story reflects the attitude Americans still had for our recent enemy, and the thought of young American boys bringing home a Japanese bride was looked down upon. It was an attitude that would take years to soften, and in the meantime Japanese wives continued coming to the US. This tale is a bittersweet romance between two such couples, and how it played out. Although the novel is more detailed than the movie, I prefer the ending in the movie to the book. But no matter which way you view the story it will leave a lasting memory in your heart. Highly recommended.