Something I was always taught in World History was that, up until the mid-20th century, Japan = Isolationism.
So, imagine my surprise to open this boo Something I was always taught in World History was that, up until the mid-20th century, Japan = Isolationism.
So, imagine my surprise to open this book, written and taking place in 1905 Japan, and see a world that fairly bustles with the word “cosmopolitan.”
The middle class characters in this book enjoy reading Chinese poetry, using American telephones, quoting ancient Greek philosophers, dining on European delicacies, wearing English hats, following the world news, and all while still following a calendar of traditions they have used for centuries.
Some of the satire is lost through time, space, and translation, but even from my disadvantage, I could see the author using his narrator, a house-cat, to point out foibles of a bourgeois group of people, quite willing to laugh at the silly humans, having fun deflating their puffed up self-importance with his wry commentary. ...more
Kirkus Reviews calls the book “both realistic and dreamlike” – which I found to be a perfect description of the narrative tone.
While the main charact Kirkus Reviews calls the book “both realistic and dreamlike” – which I found to be a perfect description of the narrative tone.
While the main character describes a tough, realistic, primitive life style on an ancient island, ghosts and goddesses float through the main character’s life as she discovers truths about both the lands of the living and the dead.
A love story on many levels, exploring how love and hate are very much two sides of the same coin. ...more
A powerful example of peaceful political protest put into a fairy tale setting.
The story underlines the fact that social change works best when two d A powerful example of peaceful political protest put into a fairy tale setting.
The story underlines the fact that social change works best when two different types of people are involved – the person affected by the problem who needs to state the problem and the person in the position of power and privilege who recognizes they have power and privilege and does something to change the system.
Also, wow, loved the realism of the central government trying to institute changes to the system, and the privileged class throwing a fit about privileges being shared.
A wonderful story with a powerful message that sometimes things have to change. ...more
The first is the story of three people chasing each other: The Longing Heart, the Jealous Heart, and the Indeci There are two stories playing out here.
The first is the story of three people chasing each other: The Longing Heart, the Jealous Heart, and the Indecisive Heart. It’s a story as old as the Bible and as recent as today’s soap opera episode.
In this version, it is a man and two women, the man indecisive about what he wants, one woman longing for him, the other woman jealous that he is indecisive about who he wants. I have seen this played out many ways – a boy and two girls, and girl and two boys, all boys, all girls, and any manner of hetero and homosexual attraction and pairings – and any way you figure it, the equation always equals pain for someone. And its heartbreaking to watch – even in the lightest, most carefree French farces, there is an element of sadness underneath all the laughter that someone can’t be with who they love.
The second story is also very old, often retold and seen throughout the history of human stories. It is the story of the animal, plant, angel, demon, doll, puppet, statue, house, computer, android, hologram, cell phone, etc that has the self awareness to know its not human – and longs with all its inhuman (and possible non-existent) heart to be human so that they can have a shot at being loved.
Johnson did her homework on 10th century Japan, bringing to life every detail the life of the royal courtiers. A glossary of some sorts would have been nice to explain a few things, but context clues get the gist of it across and it is easy to see that these people were more wrapped up in rigid customs and rules than the residents of Versailles.
One of her main characters, the nobleman Yoshifuji, is emo way before it was cool, wandering around and practically bumping into things, his head is so far into the clouds (or up his butt, depending on how tolerant you are of his I–am-comfortably-well-off-with-no-practical-problems-so-life-is-meaningless angst. )
Shikujo is his wife and doesn’t know what to do with him, in love with him, yet frustrated that he isn’t playing along with the game like the rest of the court, and also frustrated by the inkling that there is more to life than being a 10-century Japanese edition of a Stepford wife, yet having no idea how to break out of that restricting mold.
And then there is the fox, who longs with all her foolish heart to be human and to be loved, eager to run towards it, paying no heed to her grandfather’s warnings that foxes who gain a human heart risk breaking it… ...more
I'd have to re-read this to give it a proper review and rating, but even though I haven't read this in years, I still fondly remember the climax of thI'd have to re-read this to give it a proper review and rating, but even though I haven't read this in years, I still fondly remember the climax of the story:
A huge fight breaks out in the castle as all the opposing characters decide now is the time to try and kill each other. The lady of the castle ducks out of the fighting to run into her bedroom, looking for some extra swords, where she finds her husband dressed in his best robes, calmly sitting at a table writing a poem. She (understandably) yells at him, but he calmly explains that since they are losing, he's writing his funeral dirge.
I cheered as the lady rolls her eyes, grabs his sword, and plunges back into the fight scene. (And wins!)