'One morning, towards the end of the summer they burned away my face.' This is the way Emiko Amai recalls August 6th, 1945 - the day she survived the Hiroshima bomb. Emiko was six years old, her parents killed, her younger brother hanging on to life by a thread. Only her grandfather remained unscathed. Now the Americans, who had perpetrated this terrible deed, came to the victim's bedsides with notepads and cameras, even sketchbooks, to record what they had done. They were as mystified by the radiation sores as were the Japanese. A decade later Emiko was among the twenty-five scarred but treatable Hiroshima 'maidens' brought for reconstructive surgery to the United States. For Anton Boll and his colleagues at Los Alamos, New Mexico, news of the explosion was confirmation of a dream, though as he would concede in lectures for the next fifty years, 'dreams sometimes become nightmares'. Boll was a refugee of conscience from Germany, a recruit to Oppenheimer's Manhattan Project who believed the sooner they cracked these nuclear equations, the sooner people would stop dying worldwide. His attitude to the war was 'Get this damn thing over.'
What would happen if a half century after the event, Emiko and Anton - the reconstructed Hiroshima survivor and the nuclear scientist - should meet? This is what unfolds in Dennis Bock's extraordinary novel. Anton's Jewish wife Sophie, with her own legacy of wartime drama to relate, now struggles with a disfiguring terminal illness. She is glad that the Japanese filmmaker Emiko has come to interview her husband. Perhaps at last he will find some peace.show more