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Reading Sword and Blossom

I have been reading Sword and Blossom: A British Officer’s Enduring Love for a Japanese Woman. It’s a true story of an extraordinary love affair that began when a young British Army officer fell for a Japanese woman in early 20th century. Owing to unforeseen cirumstances of war, Arthur Hart-Synnot took up postings all over Asia. Separated for years at a time, they stayed in touch through long, deeply affectionate letters. I’m amazed at Masa Suzuki’s patience and conviction for a destiny etched out amid the war:

“Masa had grown used to being patient, and her faith in Arthur was undiminished, but in the meantime she was paying a price. She told him about difficulties with unpleasant neighbors, who were shunning her or gossiping. As a single woman with two Western-looking children, an income that came from abroad, and experience of travel and the wider world that went beyond that of her neighbors, she stood out in a Tokyo street where conformity was valued above all else.” (p.139)

Women demonstrate an incredible capacity for love and longing. In The Woman Who Waited, Vera subjected herself to a life of invincible solitude, refusing to love anyone else, remaining faithful to the absent. In the novel Waiting by Ha Jin, a farm-woman refused to divorce her husband, who took a mistress in the city. She waited for 17 years before the prodigal man returned to her bosom. In this memoir, Masa Suzuki, a typical Japanese woman who left school at age 14 to work in a shop , who would kneel at a respectful distance while her father and brothers ate, risked her family’s disapproval and society’s shunning eyes to be with a foreigner. The racial prejudice and social snobbery she encountered, alone, with two mixed children whose father wasn’t even present most of the time, must be so poignantly ineffable.

6 Responses

  1. As an aside, I find it interesting you mention Ha Jin because I just picked up “A Free Life” from the library a few days ago…

  2. You’re zipping through your books on war. Sounds like a good read you’ve got there.

  3. It sounds like a Madam Butterfly but with a better ending.

  4. Angie:
    I’ve spotted his new book at the bookstore, but since I’m on a budget, I’ll have to queue at the library or wait until the trade paperback come out. Have you read any of his previous works? I find Craze very intense.

    I’ll begin Last Night I dreamed of Peace soon. And have a great trip. 🙂

  5. Isabel:
    I’m not going to give away the ending. But it brings tears in my eyes.

  6. No, This is the first one I have read. I was in the library to pick up Camus’ The Stranger (this time I’m reading it in English…take that French 301!) and I always stop by the new release section to see what’s out. I saw it and the premise sounded interesting so I checked it out. So far I’m really enjoying it.

    Maybe I’ll have to check out Craze next?

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