Review: Early Sunday Morning

Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii 1941 (Dear America Series)Early Sunday Morning
by Barry Denenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Early Sunday Morning (Pearl Harbor) / 0-439-32874-8

Clocking in at approximately 130 pages and fairly large print, "Early Sunday Morning" can be finished by late Sunday afternoon. In a matter of a few short pages, Amber's journalist family is swept protesting to their new assignment in Hawaii, followed by a few quick jotted notes about Hawaii history and culture, mostly gleaned from Amber's encyclopedia. More lavish treatment is given to various dinner parties where American officers expound foolishly on the unlikelihood of a Japanese attack, all of which is very interesting, but is not explored very deeply.

The actual attack, when it occurs, is handled well. Amber and her brother construct a pillow fort in the living room - a meaningless gesture, she admits, but one which makes her feel slightly safer - and huddle together, convinced that they will die at any moment. This is a nice touch and a decent reminder to those of us who tend to see the event as "merely" affecting the ships attacked - the surrounding population had no way of knowing how confined the attack would or would not eventually be. Afterward, measures are taken: like the limiting of radio and night lights to prevent 'signaling' the Japanese troops. Amber's family builds a bomb shelter, albeit a poorly constructed one, and procure several poorly fitted gas masks.

Just as things are starting to get interesting, however, the book grinds to a sudden halt. The book had begun, briefly, to hint at the anti-Japanese sentiment that caused so many innocent Japanese-Americans to be rounded up into illegal camps and stripped of their possessions and belongings, but this dead-ends unsatisfactorily. Frustratingly, the author seems to hint that the one arrested person in the novel most definitely had pro-Japan sentiments, and therefore probably really was a collaborator.

This book is too short and too flimsy an approach to the subject matter to warrant the high price that the hardcover is asking. My recommendation is to skip "Early Sunday Morning" and buy "My Secret War" instead - another Dear America book that covers World War II and Pearl Harbor, but covers it in far more detail and integrity.

~ Ana Mardoll

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