Kathryn's Reviews > The Scarlet Kimono

The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay
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's review
Mar 02, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: choc-lit
Read in February, 2011

I absolutely loved this book. Having thoroughly enjoyed Christina's debut novel, Trade Winds, I was really looking forward to reading The Scarlet Kimono and, happily, it exceeded my expectations.

Christina is an incredibly versatile writer. She switches effortlessly from describing 17th Century life in a samurai daimyo or lord's castle in Northern Japan to English family life, and from the bustle of a busy port, be it Plymouth in England or Hirado in Japan, to covering life on board a merchant sailing vessel in between. Her attention to detail is incredible and, as a result, I felt as if I were right in the middle of the action, shadowing the characters, which is where I hope every book will take me.

As for the characters, Taro Kumashiro is an unusual romantic hero at first sight but he's also irresistible: a powerful Japanese warrior lord in command of thousands of men, who is honourable, fierce, brave and loyal, but also fair, deeply intelligent and attractive. His sensei or adviser, Yanagihara, is a wonderful creation, who imparts a sense of foreboding when he sees Hannah's approach in a vision but is also a calming centre for Taro and gave this reader a real insight into Japanese philosophy on life and fate.

As for the heroine, Hannah Marston is a young English girl, who has impulsively stowed aboard one of her father's ships rather than be forced into a loveless arranged marriage. She's headstrong and wilful but also intelligent, kind and compassionate. She has an openness and willingness to learn that will not only help her as she adjusts to life at sea but also prepare her to fully experience a new country, its people and culture in contrast to her fellow countrymen. To help her in this, she has the wonderful Hoji-san, who has to serve the Ship's Captain until he saves his life and can be freed, and acts as Hannah's sensei. I felt that I learnt a lot about Japanese culture and customs so that, like Hannah, I was similarly prepared when her ship docked and the action shifted to Japan.

Christina's love of Japan, its people, culture and customs, shines through in this book and, ultimately, I think there are two love stories in this novel: the one between Taro and Hannah, with its clash of personalities, cultures and attitudes; and then there's the one for Japan and all things Japanese. It's a richer and more rewarding reading experience for having both and I'd urge you to take on board provisions and stow away somewhere where you won't be disturbed until you've finished reading this.

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02/25/2011 page 100
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