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The Scent of Sake

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  517 ratings  ·  103 reviews
She was taught to submit, to obey . . . but she dreamed of an empire.

The sole heir to the House of Omura, a venerable family of Kobe sake brewers, nineteen-year-old Rie hears but cannot heed her mother's advice: that in nineteenth-century Japan, a woman must "kill the self" or her life will be too difficult to bear. In this strict, male-dominated society, women may not eve
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 17th 2009 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published February 6th 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,862)
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Jan 04, 2010 Sandy added it
Shelves: japan, contemp-fic
this is THE most emotion-less piece of fiction I have read in a long time. It did not evoke one single emotional reaction from me for any of its characters, regardless of what they were going through. However, having lived in Tokyo for 2 years, I decided to read it to its conclusion and found it somewhat interesting for its historical narrative.
For its hard lines and severe edges this story brought back to me the often rigid, stiff, protocol and "saving 'face' is more important than anything" so
This had so many possibilities - a woman in paternalistic 19-century Japan - but the writing was just deadly. After about 100 pages, I started skimming; somewhere around page 200, I started skipping forward in big chunks. The narrative is clunky and disjointed, and skips around in a really confusing manner. The main character starts out interesting, but quickly devolves into everything she didn't want to be, and seems to feel it necessary to insure that her children (and others of that generatio ...more
Tara Chevrestt
This first half of this novel was very enjoyable. The prose and style were terrific. Rie is a young girl living in 19th century Japan. Her father is a leading merchant in the sake business. Due to the traumatic loss of her brother, Rie is the heir. She is forced into a loveless marriage with a man that prefers the company of geishas and sake to that of his wife. As his drinking escalates, he neglects the family business, causing Rie to take the reins and save it from financial ruin. While she ca ...more
Nineteen year old Rie, like all good Japanese girls of 1825, submits to the marriage her prosperous parents arrange for her, hoping she will come to love her husband, who is adopted into her family's brewing business. Rei demonstrates a shrewd head for business, and in a time when women are taught to subjugate themselves, she finds subversive ways to make her voice heard as she moves towards her goal of making White Tiger the number one brewery in Kobe, in spite of fire, shipwreck, and betrayal. ...more
This seriously should have been titled, "The Scent of Suck-ay." The only good thing about this book was the awesome conversation it propelled in our book club. Other than that, go ahead and save 3 hours of your life by skipping this one...
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

Copyright 2009 by Joyce Lebra
Penerbit GagasMedia
Alih Bahasa : Gema & Wirawan Sukarwo
Editor : Ayuning & Gita Romadhona
Proofreader : @ceriamawardi
Desain sampul : Dwi Anissa Anindhika
Cetakan I : Maret 2012 ; 548 hlm
Rate : 3 of 5

Tema seputar kehidupan kaum wanita Asia terutama sebelum abad ke-20 senantiasa menarik untuk disimak. Budaya, adat istiadat serta norma-norma sosial yang merupakan aturan baku bagi setiap anggota masyarakat terhormat,
My 1.5-year-old baby maimed this book and I let him.

No, but seriously… there is always a new low. Always, I'm now sure of it. Before I read The Scent of Sake, I thought The Pure Land was the worst of all books about Japan. Before The Pure Land I thought it was Shogun. I dread the day I'll find something worse than The Scent of Sake.

It's so bad I can't even… all I am now able to do is to write a review as bland and dull as the book was. So there is this woman named Rie. She is the only child in t
Nov 22, 2008 Hope rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Japan, historical fiction, or strong female characters
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The topic of the book--an account of the daughter of a sake brewer in 19th century Japan and her struggle to control the destiny of the family business--is intriguing, but the writing style is frustrating in the extreme. The main character often feels like a 21st century Western woman plunked into feudal Japan, and there are numerous awkward places where characters explain Japanese culture and history to each other in way that feels utterly artificial. "It's so important to keep our communicatio ...more
Picked up this book during waiting time between editing sessions at work. I surely wish I didn't though, because I ended up disliking this book to an absurd level.

There are many things that disturbed me about the culture of Japan written in this book; mostly the lackluster details, the disjointed writing, and the ? ? ? descriptions that might or might not fit the timeline… but what bothered me the most are the portrayal of geisha and the heroine herself.

First, the portrayal of geisha. This is an
I'd say a 1.5 rating would be fair. Sub-par writing... This just did not have an authentic feel to me. The author used the device of having an older character explain Japanese traditions to a younger character, in order to explain Japanese culture to the reader. Here's an example; The main character, the O-kusan of the house, tells a teenaged girl to always remember that rice is sacred. But this is something a Japanese child would learn at age 3, 4, and 5. And isn't this something that most peop ...more
It was a nice book. If you've never read anything on japanese culture you may actually rate it higher than I have. Most of the plot was around Rie's suffering as a female in feudal japan, and eventually all the other internal family politics and intrigue that take place within the story. It does pique ones interest in that way. Also I thought the author was very talented since she made it sound so authentic when she is not even japanese. But that is usually why books are so good ^__^.
Nana Mizushima
I enjoyed this historical novel and finished it in two days. Professor Lebra did a wonderful job combining her knowledge of Japanese history and culture with an interesting story line. The Japanese terminology and mannerisms didn't bother me since I'm familiar with much of them. In fact, I was impressed with her knowledge of the details of Japanese life in that time period. The story reminds me of the historical television dramas which the Japanese themselves love. I noticed a few of the other r ...more
An excellent book. The author does a great job of drawing the reader into mid-nineteenth century Japan and its strict culture. This is a very good book if you enjoy reading about the inner workings of families and relationships and learning about other cultures.
Lynn Jones
this could have been so good; however the writing was mediocre and for a woman who lived some years in Japan, I am shocked at how little she assimilated beyond the external. This is why I prefer to read translations I guess
The author had done her research well about the historical events of the day - the end of the Tokogawa Shogunate and the beginning of the Meiji Era, and was essentially correct in her depiction of the sake brewing family. The plot follows the strong-willed daughter of the family who actually runs the business. She never makes a mistake and only her husband was opposed to her. The main character's plotting and scheming in business and the lives of those who work under her, made me think the autho ...more
meh. Boooooring. I actually sped through my kindle while reading this. Didn't even felt like finishing it. I can only think the author was going for a sense of poetic beauty in her narrative (or something) and missed the target completely. Like some other people have already stated: the author TELLS you what the character is feeling instead of SHOWING you. I reckon this makes the characters and storyline utterly flat and really just becomes a book telling you what's going on rather than you find ...more
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really like to history and time period and I love Japan, but this book reads more like a history book than a fictional story. I can't seem to become emotionally involved with the characters because instead of the relationships being allowed to play out with dialogue and actions, the author instead has chosen to focus on the business end of things and leaves the relationships to merely telling us that they are progressing.

An example of this being that Rie'
Rie terlahir dalam sebuah keluarga yang memiliki bisnis produksi sake. Rumah Sake Omura sudah berdiri sejak lama. Ayah Rie, Kinzaemon IX adalah kepala Rumah Sake Omura. Dalam tradisi Jepang, seorang perempuan tidak boleh terlibat dalam pembuatan dan penjualan sake. Perempuan tidak boleh masuk ke dalam kura (ruang produksi sake) karena akan membuat sake terasa asam. Padahal Rie ingin sekali terlibat dalam usaha sake keluarga.

Sebenarnya Rie punya adik laki-laki bernama Toichi. Namun Toichi meningg
This is one if those "like it sorta" or "hate it a lot" books. It does start out with that Memiors of a Geisha-like scenario of a girl being raised in a horrid male-dominated society and the awful things they say (kill the self) to the girls. It is hard to read these things as an American woman for chapter after chapter - you want her to slit everyone's throat in the night and take off with the hot sake brewer down the road. Ok, not really. But you WILL start hoping for some relief for poor Rie ...more
For the first time I read something historical about sake making! Didn't know anything about sake at all but since it has to do with Japanese culture and history, I grabbed the book and it was indeed a great experience. Sake was perhaps one of the major things in Japanese culture back then. It was a very traditional process and sake brewers have high status in the society. They even have a proper family bloodline (can't recall the proper word, something similar like a monarchy system). The oldes ...more
Saya merasa sangat membenci karakter Rie(karkater utama buku ini). Gila kontrol(pake 'r' lho ya xD), tukang maksa, sok melankolis, dst, dst...

Bahkan rasa sedikit simpati saya ketika dia dipaksa menikah malah jadi habis seketika. Rie ini tipe orang yang semakin tua semakin menyebalkan. Saya heran kenapa tidak ada di antara anak/menantu/cucu/pegawai-nya yang meracuni Rie saja.

Karakternya banyak sekali dengan nama yang sialnya sedikit mirip-mirip. Jadi ini juga sedikit membuat bingung. Benar-benanr
Hasti Skarsih
Pertama saya membaca synopsi buku ini, yang pertama terlintas di kepala saya adalah novel Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Gadis Pantai. Tapi ketika saya membaca novel ini, lembar demi lembar hingga akhir halaman, novel ini jauh berbeda dengan Gadis Pantai. Walau tetap memiliki kesamaan, bagaimana seorang wanita bertahan dengan adat istiadat yang mengikat erat kaki mereka sebelum orang-orang mengenal kata "Emansipasi".

Dalam novel ini diceritakan, Rei, anak dari seorang pembuat sake, berusaha untuk meyakin
Historikal fiksi yang ditulis seorang profesor di Universitas Colorado ini mengupas keadaan Jepang sebelum abad ke dua puluh, dari sudut pandang seorang Puteri yang lahir di keluarga produsen sake.

Saya mengambil buku ini karena sinopsisnya yang "menggelitik". Dipaparkan perjuangan perempuan Jepang menyusun strategi untuk melakukan pembebasan dari sistem budaya yang menekannya dari banyak arah. Bukan hanya untuk mendapat pengakuan kesetaraan hak di tengah-tengah keluarganya, melainkan juga untuk
Japan has beguiled me since high school, so when The Scent of Sake crossed my path I picked it up and read it in a single sitting.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, watching as a young Rie fights against tradition and learns to manipulate her situation to her advantage. The last part of the book left me wanting more. It seemed to me that Rie stopped growing as a character, and we covered about 40 years in less than 200 pages.

While I enjoyed it as a small slice of culture/history, I just saw
While the book does a pretty good job of telling the complete story of one woman's role in a family-run sake business, it fails to develop any kind of reader connection with characters or the plot. Instead, it is more of a marathon of events that the main character Rie orchestrates and maneuvers as the head of her house's business. I found it interesting because my sister lives in Japan and many things mentioned were familiar because she has talked about them. The story itself is interesting as ...more
I usually love historical fiction stories, but this one was thin in terms of the characters that inhabited this time in the world, and heavy in terms of the technical descriptions of their world. In termsI of writing, the quality was thin as well. The passage of time was dealt with in paragraphs - hard for the reader to grasp, instead of making definitive breaks (chapters or pauses).
I skimmed a lot of the book as it was redundant and got old after a while. Characters do not continue to repeat t
History from the perspective of one sake family in Japan over 70 years (1830's onward). Strong female protagonist. Interesting look at gender roles, inheritance, etc...
Carissa Anne
I am now only reading this because I have no other books with me, and I'll be returning it to the library this evening. I had such high hopes for this book, but sadly many aspects have made it very unenjoyable for me. The writing style is almost juvenile in the way that the author can't seem to make the story flow. "Rie did this. Then she did this. Then she did this, and sighed, because of this. Then she did this." The author's information in the back of the book says that she's written a dozen ...more
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Joyce C. Lebra is the celebrated author of 11 non–fiction titles. She is a scholar of Japan and notable professor emeritus at the University of Colorado.

More about Joyce Chapman Lebra...
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