Hiroshima Book Summary - Hiroshima Book explained in key points
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Hiroshima summary

John Hersey

The Stories of Six Survivors of the Atomic Bomb

4.6 (209 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

'Hiroshima' by John Hersey is a journalistic account of six survivors' experiences in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. It provides a sobering look at the devastating effects of nuclear warfare.

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    The blast


    It was exactly 8:15 on the morning of August 6, 1945, and the chance movements of six Hiroshima residents – which way they were walking, where they were sitting, the precise way they were leaning over in their chair – happened to mean they survived.

    When the atomic bomb dropped, the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto was helping a friend move his belongings to the edge of the city in case an air raid came. It was a still, quiet morning.

    A huge flash of light appeared, and the two men ducked for cover. Mr. Tanimoto dove between some rocks. Like others, he heard no noise.

    For Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a war widow, the flash was an intense white. She’d followed official advice to evacuate the city center, and was on the outskirts with her three young children, watching a neighbor reluctantly tear his house down – a measure taken to prevent the spread of fire, in case of an attack.

    The intense white blast hurled her across the room. She was buried in debris, but unhurt. She heard a cry, “Mother!” How lucky they were: all three children survived and she was able to pull them free.

    Dr. Masakazu Fujii, a jovial lover of middle-aged prosperity, was sitting on the porch in his underwear, reading the newspaper. At 8:15, before he knew it, he found himself suspended in the river, trapped fortuitously between two timbers – parts of the now submerged private hospital in which he’d been living.

    Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German Jesuit, was in the mission house, also reading in his underwear. The next thing he remembered, he was wandering around the vegetable garden, surveying a scene of utter devastation.

    The only unhurt doctor at the Red Cross Hospital, the young Terufumi Sasaki, had come into work earlier than usual as he hadn’t slept well. He was walking down a corridor holding a blood specimen when the flash came. He ducked down, saying to himself, “Be brave!” His glasses and slippers flew off and the blood smashed on a wall.

    Miss Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk at a tin works – not a relation of the doctor’s despite their shared surname – was at her desk in a room lined with books. She was turning her head away from a window when the entire building collapsed around her, trapping her under a mound of books and bookcases. Her leg hurt horribly.

    But, by chance, she was alive.

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    What is Hiroshima about?

    Hiroshima (1946 and 1985) is journalist John Hersey’s classic account of six survivors of the 1945 atom bomb attack on Japan. Amid the wreckage, these six lived to offer their accounts of the devastating experience.

    Who should read Hiroshima?

    • History devotees
    • Character-driven non-fiction (or fiction) enthusiasts
    • Budding journalists

    About the Author

    John Hersey, an American journalist, was born in China in 1914 and lived in the US from 1925. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, A Bell for Adano, in 1945, but Hiroshima was his biggest success. He mostly concentrated on writing fiction, alongside teaching at Yale, his alma mater.

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