Liviu's Reviews > The Tatar Whirlwind: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century East Asia

The Tatar Whirlwind by Ryōtarō Shiba
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's review
Dec 21, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: mainstream, read_2010
Read in December, 2010

I had high hopes for this novel and I was pretty disappointed since it's more of a historical recreation in chronicle style than a true work of fiction; the author alternates novelistic style with something you would find in a popular book on history and it does not work that well with a very dry and dispassionate style; I read popular history books written ten times more engaging than this one which is supposed to be a novel.

There are moments here and there that show the potential but overall the story of the samurai that leaves Japan to Korea and later China to return a Manchurian "princess" shipwrecked on his lord's domain, only to run into upheaval on the mainland and later into the return ban the Tokugawa imposed on everyone outside Japan at some point, just bogs down in style and chronicle-like exposition.

The ending is good, while the overall shape of the story presents an interesting moment in the history of eastern Asia, but i really wish the book could have been more fiction-like and with at least some narrative flow; Wikipedia reads better and more entertaining than this so-called novel...

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Comments (showing 1-4)

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message 4: by Mike (new)

Mike Trevors I'm very curious about this book. Can't find any reviews on it so I look forward to seeing what you thought of the book.

message 3: by Liviu (last edited Nov 30, 2010 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liviu This is an asap book - just discovered the author from Donald Keene book 5 Japanese novelists (has Kawabata, Tanizaki, Mishima and Abe as the other 4 and while i am not that big a fan of Abe, the rest are among my all time favorite writers and i have started a reading and rereading in many cases of their work that i have which is close to all that's translated)

Sadly my library system does not ahve it, but i put an ILL for now since they are very good with that; the moment it comes, i will get to it - we have 8 Japanese originals by the author in the library system of Westchester County, NY but only the last shogun translation which is I reserved but is less of interest

message 2: by Hélène (new)

Hélène It seems it isn't even translated in French - sigh. Unfortunately, I'd rather read The Tartar Whirlwind than The last shogun (which is translated).

Liviu In The Five Japanese Novelists - which is mostly a collection of anecdotes more than anything else and a bit annoying since it comes across a little condescending, but full of useful tidbits - Donald Keene talks about Shiba Ryotaru as being very popular in Japan though not necessarily with the critics and also his novels being "very Japanese" with few exceptions like this one, so harder for people outside Japan to get (see what i mean about condescending...)

I am really curious now...

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