Review: Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer

Title: Camp Nine
Author: Vivienne Schiffer
Pages: 198
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: October 10th, 2011
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

If any of you are currently looking for the next selection for your book club, then please please please look into Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer. This absolutely stunning novel receives a (very rare) 5 out of 5 from me and is easily one of my favorite books this year! The writing is fantastic, and there are many controversial topics that would really engage a literary group.

These are the parts of my life: before Camp Nine and after Camp Nine, and those brief, unexpected days when Camp Nine was everything to me.
Camp Nine tells the story of Cecilia "Chess" Morton and her coming of age in the Arkansas Delta during World War II. Rook, Arkansas is an extremely rural farming town filled with prejudice, bigotry, and a strong division between the haves and the have-nots. While life is far from ideal, the appearance of an internment camp for Japanese Americans forced to leave their California homes quickly changes the town. When her mother Carrie takes a job inside the camp, Chess finds herself becoming involved in the lives of the prisoners and one family in particular, the Matsuis. Over the course of two years, Chess sees not only the triumphs and tragedies of a group of people who struggle daily with questions of sacrifice, loyalty, family, and tradition but also the unexpected dark secrets that lie within her own family's past.

The topic of the Japanese internment camps created by FDR during World War II is a part of US history that is often overlooked. I am so glad that Ms. Schiffer wrote such a compelling book that bring this subject into the forefront. The basic idea itself is just so unbelievable, and I can't even imagine the outcry if something like that were to have been suggested regarding American Muslims after 9/11. Based on the Rohwer Relocation Center, Camp Nine seems very well researched and translates into a very modern literary read.
I know that Camp Nine was something that should never have been. It destroyed lives and separated families...But the experience was mine, too. On a deeper lever than I had ever understood, Camp Nine has defined my life.
Once I started this book, I didn't want to stop. The writing of this Southern author and Arkansas native is magical. The setting came alive as I read, and I felt whatever emotion that the author conjures throughout the narrative. The subject matter first caught my attention, but it was the perfect amount of action and conflict that kept me reading. Little one-off lines of foreshadowing built a lot of excitement and increased my need to reach the novel's conclusion. While this story appears to be about a group of prisoners, Schiffer tackles the horrific and muddled situation through the eyes of a pre-teen girl. This is very much Chess' story. 

Again, I can't tell you enough about the competent and mesmerizing book that is Camp Nine. I definitely learned something about a topic that I wasn't too familiar with beforehand. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to read Vivienne Schiffer's unforgettable debut. 

About Vivienne Schiffer

Vivienne Schiffer grew up in the Arkansas Delta town of Rohwer, site of the Rohwer Relocation Center, on which Camp Nine is based. She is an attorney and has practiced law for twenty-eight years in Houston, where she lives with her husband Paul and their family. Schiffer is currently at work on her second novel.


  1. It does indeed sound as if this is a magical book, and one that I should probably try to read if I can. It might be perfect for one of my book clubs that enjoys fictional portrayals of this time period, so I will be mentioning it to them. Thanks for the great review on this one. It sounds excellent!

  2. Hi, Zibilee - I hope you do get a chance to read Camp Nine and that you find it takes you to a new place you've never been to before! Vivienne Schiffer

  3. Jenna - thank you so much for reading Camp Nine and for letting your followers know about good books! Vivienne

  4. I've read only a few books about this topic despite having a huge affinity for WWII-era books. I'll definitely have to pick up a copy for myself!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  5. Thank you for supporting Camp Nine! Vivienne

  6. Wow, this book sounds fantastic. Adding it to my list right now!

    Have you read Julie Otsuka's Buddha in the Attic? It's about Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century and touches briefly on the internment camps. I really enjoyed it.

  7. Hi, Rayna - I hope you like Camp Nine! Please let me know when you've read it - you can reach me through my website. I haven't read Buddha in the Attic yet, but I definitely will. Thanks again to Jenna for featuring my book. I really appreciate it! Vivienne

  8. Jenna,

    Sounds very interesting. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know about these camps until 5 or 6 years ago... certainly something that was "brushed under the rug." I don't take your reviews lightly so I'm excited to seek this one out.

  9. This sounds like a really interesting book. It kind of reminds me of the Canadian novel Obasan. Will definitely be adding it to my to-read list.

  10. Ahhh, now you made me so regretful I didn't ask to be on this tour!! A 5/5 for you -- this must be good! I'll start nosing around to see if I can find it at my local indie.

  11. Ohh I agree with Audra that I regret not being on this tour. I seriously considered it but have to be very choosy since I don't have as much reading time... This sounds so good! (I love the cover too). I will definitely keep this on my list!

  12. Beth, Christa, Audra and Jenny - sorry I'm just now checking back. Thank you all for being interested in reading Camp Nine - it's from a small, but so wonderful independent press, so word of mouth is critical for its success. I really appreciate everyone's support, and if you like it, please recommend it to your friends and readers! And yes, Jenny, that cover was designed by Katy at the U of A Press, and I just fell in love with it when I saw it. She did a super job.

  13. I'm definitely looking forward to reading this book!

  14. Thank you Meg - I hope you love it! Vivienne Schiffer

  15. I've just finished writing my response to the book, so I'm catching up on what everybody else has been saying. As Christa said, I immediately thought of Obasan when I first heard about this book, and think they would make great companion reads. Very different stylistically and very complementary.

    I agree with what you've said here about the tiny glimpses of foreshadowing. It was just the right amount!

  16. I read this book and could not put it down! It was my selection for book club and everyone gave it 5 stars!


Post a Comment