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Japanese Literature

Note: This is a pre-programmed post. I’m in Hong Kong for a wedding until Monday, October 6. I will attend to all your comments when I return. Don’t forget to stop by on Monday as I’ll be hosting a stop in the TLC Book Tour for Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers.

I’m aware of the Japanese Reading Challenge, which requires three books in any genres: novel, poetry, graphical novel, and children’s books. The two I’ll share with you might not qualify because the authors aren’t Japanese, but they have been well-received by readers in local bookstores. I picked up these books (both published this year) a while ago waiting to snap into the mood for them.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery is set in late nineteenth century Japan. It’s the story of Aurelia, a young French-American girl who, after the death of her mother and her missionary uncle, finds herself lost and alone and in need of a new family. Knowing only a few words of Japanese she hides in a Japanese tea house and is adopted by the family who own it: gradually falling in love with both the Japanese tea ceremony and with her young mistress, Yukako.

The novel is drawn from a history shrouded in secrets about two women, it also portrays resplendent tea parties that women, other than those who are entertaining, are not welcome. Japan’s warriors and well-off men would gather in tatami-floored structures—teahouses—to participate in an event that was equal parts ritual dance and sacramental meal.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz is a fictionalized reconstruction of the private history of Haruko, a young woman of good family, who marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne, in 1959. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres.

12 Responses

  1. I really liked The Teahouse Fire. It turned out to be more than I expected. Hope you like it!

  2. I have just discovered your blog and shall become a regular reader. Do hope you enjoyed HK my son lives there and I have been lucky enough to go two years running. I now try to read about China as much as I can.
    wormauld.a life in books and music.blogspot.com

  3. I had considered reading both of these books last year, but didn’t. It’ll be interested to read your reviews.

  4. Enjoy the wedding, ‘things’ only come along every so often…

  5. Both sound very intriguing, especially they’re about women in Japan.

  6. Saw that B&N has this book nominated for the great writer award. Out of curiosity and the fascination for Japanese culture I picked up The Commoner which I haven’t read. Would love to hear what you think. Have a safe trip home. 🙂

  7. joemmama:
    Thanks for the heads up. I’m looking forward to reading it. The premise of the tea house sounds great! 🙂

  8. daphne sayed:
    Thanks for stopping by. Have you ever read Peter Hessler? He’s the foreign correspondent of The New Yorker in Beijing. He has also published two books:

    The River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze River
    The Bone Oracle

    Also I read a memoir of an Englishmean who had arrived in Hong Kong with his parents when he was 6. His name is Martin Booth. The book is called:

    Gweilo: Memoir of a Childhood in Hong Kong

  9. bookchronicle:
    I plan to read both during the month of October. Do you still want to read them? 🙂

  10. seachanges:
    Thank you. I have a blast. I wish I could stay longer! 🙂

  11. Dare:
    Aren’t they interesting? I have been reading a lot of women fiction and am loving them. 🙂

  12. John:
    Thanks John. I just got back.

    The Commoner has lots of attention in the media, but the reviews are split in the middle. Some said the story has been on slow wheels but other just praised the writing. I’ll will see how it goes. 🙂

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