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The heartbreaking story of Korea during the Second World War is brought to life in this gripping, redemptive debut about two sisters.

'Look for your sister after each dive. Never forget. If you see her, you are safe.'

Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyeo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea.

One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore.

So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

A riveting, immersive read in the vein of The Kite Runner and Memoirs of a Geisha.


I read it in one sitting

Kate Kellaway, Observer

I would also recommend Mary-Lynn Bracht’s novel White Chrysanthemum, a story of family separation in Korea during the 20th century. I learned a lot about Korean culture in this book, but it also has a sweeping story that captivates the reader

John Boyne, Irish Times Summer Reads

I read Hana and Emi's story with my heart in my mouth... A bold, devastating, important novel shot through with hope and beauty

Rachel Joyce

Introduces a heart-rending seam of history… Bracht has fashioned her own memorial to the comfort women. White Chrysanthemum is a timely and furiously felt book

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Guardian

A hugely affecting, captivating read -- I cried for most of the second half

Sarah Shaffi, Stylist

It's jaw-dropping, it's devastating, it's heart-breaking and absolutely beautiful. I couldn't recommend it more

Sinead Moriarty

Beautifully written... In elegant but emotionally devastating prose Bracht conveys the heartbreaking impact of brutality and war upon women

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

Bracht's rich detail and captivating characters bring history vividly to life. An insightful, engaging and deeply emotional page-turner


If you're a fan of The Kite Runner and Memoirs of A Geisha, you'll love Mary Lynn Bracht's novel... Both educating and engaging, Bracht’s rich detail and captivating characters plunge you into Korean history in a heartbreaking and deeply emotional page-turner

Rebecca Wilcock, i newspaper

An evocative picture of loss and also an account of how one of the deepest human bonds can survive almost anything

James Naughtie, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

An emotional tale of sisterly endurance and a fascinating and harrowing insight into the hidden lives of Korean comfort women... you’ll be captivated. Let the bidding for movie rights begin

The Pool

A soul-churning ode to the power of family love (and the ties that bind sisters specifically) and the importance of pursuing justice in the face of systemic silence... an unflinching-but-ultimately-redemptive book that places a much-needed spotlight on a forgotten moment of human horror

Emerald Street

Devastatingly good


A harrowing and powerful read, offering an insight into the widespread suffering of others during the war


Bracht brings the truth to light with sensitivity... Bracht's beautiful descriptions are the perfect foil to the brutality... fascinating


an original, shocking novel, contrasting mankind’s capacity for cruelty with the unquenchable strength ofthe human spirit, even in the most dire of circumstances

Richard Hopton, Country & Town House

What a story this terrific storyteller has to tell

Woman & Home

Brave, bold, important

Jackie Copleton, author of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

An impressive debut novel from a writer with a sensitive heart and gifted mind

Xiaolu Guo, a Granta Best of Young British Novelists

A captivating, beautiful debut. Warning: you’ll shed many tears

Jennifer McShane, Image

A fascinating debut

Elizabeth Archer, Daily Express

Offers a valuable insight into a neglected area of history... epic

Anthony Gardner, Daily Mail

A deeply moving read about the savage cruelty of war, and the perseverance of love

Alice O'Keefe, The Bookseller

Masterfully crafted, Bracht's mesmerizing debut novel is rich with historical detail and depth of emotion. this is a memorable story about the courage of Korean women during the Second World War

Publishers' Weekly

Suspenseful and eye-opening... In this story of a community nearly obliterated by war but saved by the strength of will of generations of women, Bracht humanizes tragedy while highlighting important social issues. Once they devour this book, readers will be looking for more

Library Journal (Starred Review)

A captivating, beautiful debut. Warning: you'll shed many tears

Book Club

Elegantly written, emotionally shattering, and historically accurate, White Chrysanthemum is a feat of literary alchemy. Mary Lynn Bracht reveals the unfathomable cruelty of Japanese sex slavery during World War II through the unbreakable love of Korean sisters

Blaine Harden, New York Times bestselling author of Escape From Camp 14

White Chrysanthemum is a powerful account of a little discussed subject about the Second World War -- comfort women enslaved by the Japanese army -- but it’s also about the courage of the women involved who want to speak about their suffering and their cry for justice, peace and love. Hana’s tragic life is just one of an estimated 200,000 Korean comfort women’s stories. Beautifully written, it’s an impressive debut novel from a writer with a sensitive heart and gifted mind

Xiaolu Guo

A captivating, controlled and devastating book about the lives of two Korean sisters during the Second World War… Allows us to look at the immediate travesty of the so-called 'comfort women' and the unresolved consequences of sexual slavery for the victims' families. Brave, bold, important, this book is beautifully written with characters that will stay with you long after the final, unforgettable paragraph

Jackie Copleton, author of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    January 2, 2018

    Chatto & Windus

    320 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Paperback


    September 3, 2018


    320 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au


It is nearly dawn, and the semi-darkness casts strange shadows along the footpath. Hana distracts her mind so that she doesn’t imagine creatures reaching for her ankles. She is following her mother down to the sea. Her nightdress streams behind her in the soft wind. Quiet footsteps pad behind them, and she knows without looking back that her father is following with her little sister still asleep in his arms. On the shore, a handful of women are already waiting for them. She recognises their faces in the rising dawn light, but the shaman is a stranger. The holy woman wears a red and royal blue traditional hanbok dress, and as soon as they descend upon the sand, the shaman begins to dance.

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Book Clubs
White Chrysanthemum Book Club Notes

Discover the strength of sisterhood in the face of war and adversity with your book club.

Writing White Chrysanthemum

Mary Lynn Bracht on the harrowing, life-changing process of researching and writing White Chrysanthemum.