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The Mask Carver's Son
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The Mask Carver's Son

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  211 ratings  ·  45 reviews
1890. Yamamoto Kiyoki is a Japanese art student, dreaming of studying in Paris with the inspiring and vibrant Impressionist painters.

Yamamoto Ryusei is Kiyoki’s father. Ryusei’s art, carving intricate masks for traditional Japanese theater, has been his refuge from loneliness since the death of his beloved wife, and he is revered as the most inspired artist of his kind. He
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Berkley
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Sometimes, you read a novel that haunts you long after the last page has been turned. For me, THE MASK CARVER'S SON is one of those rare gifts.

With an elegiac air and consummate elegance of prose, author Alyson Richman depicts Japan and Paris in the late 1800s through the eyes of Yamamoto Kiyoki, the titular son of a gifted but tormented mask carver marked by tragedy, who finds refuge in the ancient customs of the Japanese theater. Yearning to study the new modes of painting embodied by the Imp
This is one of the best novels I've read dealing with artists. It involves what art means to artists, and different cultural approaches to art. In Japan before the 20th century, art was family and tradition based. In the West artists are individuals. They are expected to be original rather than adhere to the type of art their family or tradition produces. Kiyoki, the central character, thinks like a Westerner about art. He totally misunderstands his father. There are some high costs involved in ...more
I ended up liking this much more than I liked it at the beginning, which is unusual, since the beginning is about family relationships (which I typically enjoy) and the ending is more about art. But her writing grew on me. At first I thought it was too "pretty" but then I think it loosened up, or maybe I did. I thought the main character's transition was well-done, and I loved the parts about Paris.
This tale of, well, a mask carver's son, takes place in turn-of-the-century Japan. It's an interesting look at what art was like during this time, and how someone like Kiyoki struggles against tradition and society's mores. At times, it felt like I was reading a textbook, and overall, Kiyoki's tale begs the question: Is it worth pursuing true passion at the cost of everything else?
I have read all of her books now. This was my least favorite. It was very sad and there was little redemption. She is still a very engaging author and I like her style.
I just read another sad story.... I need to find a wonderful chic book to pull me up. This was a well-written book by Alyson Richman (she also wrote "The Lost WIfe"), but the story is so sad. Richman has a very pleasant way of writing. Her words just flow along the pages telling her story in such a soft, quiet way.

This book is about Kiyoki (name means pure wood), the son of a famous Noh mask carver. In the Noh theatre, tradition is that the son will fall into the same line of work as the father
My last book read this year and its one of my favourites.

The style of writing is crisp and informative of a culture and its traditions I wasn't familiar with. I felt drawn into the story and could see each scene played out as if I was actually living it. At times It seemed as if I lfelt and experienced the emotions of the carver's son as if they were my own.

I could identify with several aspects of the life of the son and at times with those of other characters. Somehow this book really resonated
Brandon Shire
This is one of those books you horde, keeping it to yourself to read again and again.
Sharon Stine
The story moves slowly like an artist laying down each crafted color but it is the way the author crafted her main characters inner 'story' that moved me. Paris and Kyoto (two favorite places of mine) are painted with words I savored.
Fortunately for me, I judged this book by its cover, a pastel landscape featuring the Eiffel Tower framed by a plum branch in full blossom. Most of the story takes place in the mid to late Meiji Era in Japan and fin de siecle Paris. The mask carver's son wants to paint like the Western Impressionists but he is expected to follow in his father's footsteps and carve Noh masks. Kiyoki, suspended between two cultures and eras, is plagued by inner turmoil which grows tiresome at times.

This was appar
Patty Mccormick
This is about a young man who is expected to grow up to be a mask carver, but he wishes to paint. It is his journey to be himself and break from his traditions and his culture, and the expectations of his family. This is a story of love and loss and struggle of one man to be what he wants to be. He finds it difficult to fit in France and in his homeland Japan. He follows his own dream and as many artists is not recognized or seen as a success until after his death.

I found this to be an enlighten
Carolyn Lind
"I know my father carved this one especially for me. And so it is the only one that hangs on my wall. It stares at me with the same dark, bottomless eyes that only my father had. It stares at me without mercy. Those eyes, which see me for all I ever was and all that I am now. Those eyes, still pleading with me to uncover my chisels, those eyes that beseech me to complete its face."

A tale of father and son whose paths must part if the son is to fulfill his own dreams. The story builds sad upon sa
September Dee
A story of east meets west and time honored traditions facing those of modern yearnings. The central character lives his life trying to honour his family and yet is drawn to his own interests and those that he feels he has a talent for. The story is poignant and heart wrenching as well as hopeful. While one yearns for something better for oneself one may also feel guilty as for betraying family and tradition. The book is well written and smoothly transports you through the lives of Kiyoki, his f ...more
This is a book starts slowly and you may be quite tempted to stop reading the story, but the pace picks up considerably once the action moves to Paris from Japan. The beginning of the story has some very interesting moments in the telling of the ways of the late 19th century Japanese family life and culture as well as bringing the reader into the worlds of the Noh theater and the process of making the masks used during these performances. I found the later parts of the story where the grandson s ...more
The Mask Carver's Son by Alyson Richman. This takes place in the turn of the 1900's century starting in a very beautiful rural area and continues that way for a long time including the character and traditions of the area, so different from the big city. It starts with a full breadth with emphasis on the emotional background of the mask carver himself and the events and experiences that went along with it. Then it follows through with his very traditionally based marriage, the family life and th ...more
Sep 14, 2013 Betsy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
This is one of those books that grabs you and doesn't let go. Alyson Richman's ability to tell a story appears effortless. The writing is excellent and the subject matter fascinating. I found myself stopping again and again just to marvel at the visceral strength of her descriptions and the images they evoked.

A wonderful read for anyone interested in Japanese or French culture, "The Mask Carver's Son" is one of those books that makes you want to know more. And I don't mean this in the sense tha
3.75. Nice enough story about a Japanese family spanning the 1800's to mid 1900's and the culture of art at that time, with the expectation of one's craft staying in the family and being passed on for generations. The story starts out with the tragic life of a lone mask carver and then transitions to his son's aspiration to break away from tradition and paint like the European masters. Focuses on the complex relationship between the father and son as well as the conflicts between tradition and i ...more
I liked it, but felt the family history component of the story took over.

I would have loved more time about his adult years--during the roughly five years spent in France, his return to Japan, return to France, and return to Japan again.

The relationships between father and son, and friends, and the constant theme of leaving without closure were well developed. I also loved learning more about the Noh Theatre.
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway. It is a very well written character study told through beautiful language. The story of an artist trying to break free from the strict conventions and traditions of his culture, not to mention strong family ties to the legendary Japanese Noh theater, it is a novel of heartbreaking sacrifice. It is told by the artist as an old man reflecting on the time in his life when, as a young man, he was desperate not to become imprisoned by his family legacy, as his fath ...more
Gary Inbinder
In her debut novel,Alyson Richman produced a brilliant narrative of the artist as marginalized other, the soul behind the mask. Set in Meiji Era (1867-1912) Japan and France at the time of the Impressionists, the narrative reveals the protagonist's estrangement and isolation, first as an artist drawn to the West, which alienates him from his father and his traditional culture, as a Gay man, which alienates him from a straight society, and as an Easterner in the West. Moreover, he is an artist ev ...more
Diane Luzar
I love Alyson Richman's books. She captures you right away with her wonderful writing. This was not one of my favorites but it was an interesting story and I'm glad I read it. None of the characters were very likable but interesting book about the combination of Japanese and European arts back in the late 1800's. The main character had a very sad life.
Some really good passages, especially in the beginning of the book, but unfortunately fell through in the end somewhat.
The second book I read by this author. Finished the book however I did enjoy the Lost Wife better.
Feb 24, 2014 Natasha874 marked it as to-read
Won via Goodreads giveaway. Have not received it yet... Can't wait to read it when book arrives.
Jan 17, 2015 Marita rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Marita by: Joyce Bender
Hauntingly lonely Japanese-European artist story set into 1890s. Bit sad for my liking.
I must be one of the few who didn't enjoy this book. I found it tedious and whiny
Michael Jenkins
I really enjoyed Richman's earlier novels but this one left me perplexed. There were not any highlights in this book, the writing style was trite in contrast to lovely ( in her previous books), no character development or consistent plot. I initially thought that it will grow on me like some of her novels but it got worse as it progressed. I can't say that I won't read more novels by her but I do hope that the next novel is much better than this one. If there is one thing positive I can say abou ...more
Mindy Carter slayton
Her books are always about death, loss, loneliness...dark emotions. Which are interesting to read as are the different cultures that she writes about and how they deal with all of these. This book in particular left me a little more empty than precious books of hers. I loved learning about the Japanese culture back in the late 1800's. But rather glad to be done with this book.
Jeanne Halloran
The author, Alyson Richman, is a gifted writer. Her images are lyrical and beautiful. But what a waste of talent on such a depressing story! There is only heartbreak after heartbreak with no relief from the pain and no spiritual uplifting to give depth to the experience. I read to free my soul, this novel drowned it in hopelessness. I can't recommend this novel to anyone as the reading experience is a complete downer. I am giving the book three stars in recognition of the excellent writing style ...more
Joyce Yanney
Set in time of the 1800s' A telling of a Japanese art student and a father that wants his son to follow the art of carving mask, a family tradition. A sons' art that is drawn to the western culture. A gay man which separates him from straight society. A man that wants to not stay with the family tradition and dealing with being a disgrace in his fathers eyes. Story told with detail of her subject and time period. A well written book. I would like to read other books by this author.
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Alyson Richman is the author of "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and the national bestseller, "The Lost Wife." Her books have been published in over fifteen languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children. Her novel, "The Garden o ...more
More about Alyson Richman...
The Lost Wife The Garden of Letters The Last Van Gogh The Rhythm of Memory A Splendid Gift

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