Published by Putnam Books and Chatto & Windus Books (January 2018)

In the spirit of Lilac Girls, the heartbreaking history of Korea is brought to life in this deeply moving and redemptive debut that follows two sisters separated by World War II.

Korea, 1943. Hana has lived her entire life under Japanese occupation. As a haenyeo, a female diver of the sea, she enjoys an independence that few other Koreans can still claim. Until the day Hana saves her younger sister from a Japanese soldier and is herself captured and transported to Manchuria. There she is forced to become a “comfort woman” in a Japanese military brothel. But haenyeo are women of power and strength. She will find her way home.

19059641_200263827166526_5181009072677812763_nSouth Korea, 2011. Emi has spent more than sixty years trying to forget the sacrifice her sister made, but she must confront the past to discover peace. Seeing the healing of her children and her country, can Emi move beyond the legacy of war to find forgiveness?

Suspenseful, hopeful, and ultimately redemptive, White Chrysanthemum tells a story of two sisters whose love for each other is strong enough to triumph over the grim evils of war.


“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

“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, Bailey’s longlisted author of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

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, author of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

“A suspenseful and eye-opening historical work reminiscent of Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train, Jamie Ford’s Songs of Willow Frost, and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours.” Library Journal (starred)

“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, New York Times bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“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 

“A debut novel about the Korean ‘comfort women’ prostituted by Japanese soldiers in World War II—and the strong bond between two sisters separated by the conflict. … The book’s author, an American of Korean descent, writes well—the passages describing the sisters’ early lives are quite lyrical—and she’s adept at weaving in historical material about Korea and its fraught relationship with Japan.” — Kirkus Reviews 

“This captivating and heartbreaking debut novel honors the many thousands of women who were enslaved through WWII.” Booklist

“A timeless, heart wrenching, emotionally powerful tale that will resonate with readers… Its message will not be easily forgotten.” —RT Book Reviews

“A psychologically acute, emotionally resonant novel. . . . [R]ich with historical detail, White Chrysanthemum is a compelling and important account of civilian women’s lives during wartime.” BookPage

Purchase at your local bookshop or via links below:

Penguin Random House





Book Depository

Goldsboro Books


Amazon UK

Amazon USA

London Review Bookshop

11 thoughts on “White Chrysanthemum

  1. Anne van Arragon says:

    I have known about comfort women for years, having been immersed in stories of WWll almost from birth: I was born in 1941 in the German-occupied Netherlands. Dutch girls and women from Dutch-colonized Indonesia were also used as comfort women. Having edited some collected wartime memories of older Dutch immigrants to Canada, it seems to me that Japanese atrocities were possibly even worse than those of the Nazis (although, how can total evil be compared to total evil?). Your “fiction” represents real truth that needs to be remembered by future generations. Your book about Hana and Emi is so shatteringly true, I marvel at how you managed to capture the depths of wartime desolation, of a generation well before your time. Sadly, comfort women are an ongoing evil, as recent mass kidnappings of schoolgirls show once again.
    Irrelevant detail and nosy question: your mother was Korean. The name Bracht could be Dutch. ?
    Anne van Arragon
    Nova Scotia, Canada

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. It must have been a difficult task editing the war histories for the Dutch immigrants. I can only imagine the terrible stories you have read. I’m pleased my story rang true for you. I too find it a sad reality that so many girls and women continue to be trafficked today. It’s a shocking truth, but one that we need to made aware of for the sake of the victims and survivors.

      Bracht is German (my married surname). I was born Simmons, which I believe is English. Best wishes to you, Anne!

  2. Jo says:

    I just finished White Chrysanthemum and have one question. Did I miss the story of what happened to Emi’s leg?

    1. No, it was an age issue. Arthritis and such.

  3. Monnah says:

    Thank you so much for writing this book, its a very important book. Our grandmothers histories should never be forgotten. All women genetically “feel” your words no matter how old or young. Your words beautifully bring to life wonderful Korea of yesterday — also thank you for giving Hana a way of peace, even by doing so we all understand it would probably not have been so, but gave us hope for our grandmothers and our daughters and their daughters. I hope you will continue to write and thank you also for the history lesson and the further reading list. I have been blessed with opportunity to have lived in Korea and it has never left my soul i will always feel a part of me is there. Thank you again. Your book to me, is a book of Hope.

    1. Hi Monnah, you are so welcome and thank you for reading WC and sharing your thoughts! 🙏❤️

  4. Pat Fisher says:

    I just finished WHITE CHRYSANTHEMUM and enjoyed it so much. I have already c9ntacted my sisters and friends with s reccomendation that they read it. Thanks for an amazing, informative story. I sat up all last night t9 finish reading it. Very sad, but intriguing book.

    1. Thank you! I’m so pleased you enjoyed it! ❤️

  5. Lynne Evans says:

    Thanks so much for this amazing book. I am ashamed to say I have never heard of the comfort women. My husband and I talk often about the need to teach more history in school. Most children today know nothing about history. I remember being taught ancient history in high school when we should have been learning about WW 2, the Korean War etc.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing Hana to live. As the book progressed I thought over and over-please let Hana live.
    I plan to read some of your suggested books and will share this story with friends.

    1. Lynne, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on WC! I do hope you read some of the suggested books. So many of them are wonderfully written and filled with so much history.

      1. Lynne Evans says:

        I’ve a!ready ordered one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: