December 6, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Review of 'Strong in the Rain' by Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill --- On 11 March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan ...


Strong in the Rain
By Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill
Palgrave Macmillan (2012)

On 11 March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. Strong in the Rain describes the devastation caused by the earthquake and the following tsunami from the perspectives of those that lived through it.

Starting with the authors’ own description of the earthquake in Tokyo, the book goes on to follow six different individuals through their experiences of the catastrophe. These stories are used to anchor the narrative, which examines various aspects of the immediate and medium-term responses.

Many aspects of the Japanese Government’s preparedness and reaction are greatly criticised, along with their actions in conjunction with Tepco (the company that owns the Fukushima plant) surrounding the events at Fukushima. Journalists – both foreign and national – have their roles examined in great detail, exposing problems with both groups’ coverage of events. Though in some parts these analyses are slightly drawn out, they are all clear and accessible; a particularly commendable feat when discussing nuclear reactors.

In general, the book works exceptionally well; the voices are well selected and provide diverse commentary on events from a good range of perspectives (from a fisherman to a local Mayor). The commentary also tends to take on a very matter-of-fact tone, which, rather than detracting from the emotion of the situation, actually adds to it.

The structure of the book makes, what would otherwise be a heavy analysis of events, organisations and people surrounding the Fukushima story come alive. The honest commentary of those impacted, their resilience, bravery and practical approach to the events shines through, creating an exceedingly emotive tale. This book is a beautiful testament to the heroism of numerous individuals and the resolve of a nation to persevere in the face of such catastrophe.