The book looks at life through the eyes of a young boy living in a society which is at war.
The book tells the story of a boy called H and the Senoh family, a Kobe family of modest means. The book details H’s life as he grew up in the port city of Kobe, Japan during the 1930s and also his life after the end of World War II. It is about how life in Kobe changes as the war with China, and later on with the United States progresses. H is about seven years old when the story begins. Japan then is at war with China, and it is this war that forms the background for the early part of the book. H lives with his parents and younger sister in Kobe. His father Mario is a tailor who stitches suits for foreigners
He gets to interact frequently with foreigners because of the nature of his father’s work and gets exposed to a foreign religion because of his mothers involvement with the church. Hence H even though living in a conformist society grows up with a spirit of resistance. Although he knows that he has to conform to the rules and regulations of the society he lives in, he is not afraid to question them and seek answers. This tendency to question the rules soon makes him reluctant to accept the nationalist propaganda that was taking place during the war. He becomes sceptical of the motives of war and Japans involvement in the war. Senoh recalls some of the harrowing experiences of H during the war. For instance there is an account of the massive air raid by American B-29 bombers that destroys his home. Another occasion described is when he narrowly escapes from getting killed by the gun fire from an American fighter plane. These are the experiences that make H to grow up quickly. Apart from giving us an account of wartime Japan as seen through the eyes of a boy there is also an account of the trials and troubles of childhood such