Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Courtesan and The Samurai by Lesley Downer

Synopsis: Japan, 1868: the last shogun has been defeated, the age of the emperors is about to begin - and in Japan's frozen north a diehard band of loyalists plans a desperate last stand. Hana is just seventeen when her husband goes to war, leaving her alone and very vulnerable. When enemy soldiers attack her house she flees for her life across the shattered city of Tokyo and takes refuge in the Yoshiwara, its famous pleasure quarter. There she is sold into a brothel and forced to train as a courtesan. Yozo, a traveller, adventurer and brilliant swordsman, returns to Japan after six years in the Victorian West to discover that the world he left behind him has been destroyed. Travelling north to join his rebel comrades, he is captured during their final battle. Escaping, he makes his way south to the only place where a man is beyond the reach of the law - the Yoshiwara. There in the Nightless City where three thousand courtesans mingle with geishas and jesters, the battered fugitive meets the beautiful courtesan. But each has a secret so terrible that once revealed it will threaten not only their union - but their very lives...

My thoughts: Very well written and well documented with a natural connection between history and fiction. What lacked for me, however, was the absence of dynamism, maybe because of the presence of a lot of narration and less of dialogue and interaction between characters.

                If you are a fan of anime and watched Hakuoki Shinsengumi, you’ll be able to identify immediately the link, since both anime and book talk about the same time lapse in Japan’s History. You’ll see that Commandant Yamaguchi is actually Hijikata-san, the most capable swordfighter from the militia.

                Something that really got my eyes is the capacity of the author to tell a good story with sufficient details to make the scenes alive in my head. Furthermore, her love and passion for the Japanese culture makes this novel very recommended for  those who love it as well.

                Despite the compliments above, the lack of dynamism really caught me. Honestly, what made me continue this book through until the end was my wish to see the main characters encounter and because of my own fanaticism and love for this culture. This novel was more like a historical account than a novel in itself because of the few dialogues in the beginning of the book and until at least its half.


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