Will's Reviews > Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan

Samurai William by Giles Milton
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's review
Jul 28, 2008

it was ok

This book could almost be considered an extension to its phernomenonally successful predecessor, `Nathanial's Nutmeg` since the stories are almost contemporaneous, the themes similar and references to events in the prior work are abundant.

Milton's subject is an absolute gem dug from the archives of historical obscurantism. The story of the Western world's early squabbling over the riches of Japan is both brutal, amusing and stranger than fiction. One is constantly struck by the appauling conditions endured by the European mariners in pursuit of profit and the tenuous grip they held on their factories the other side of the world.

The Japanese provide a fascinating counterpoint to the colourful sailors, with their rigid feudal hierarchies, fastideous cleanliness and order, and utterly dissimilar cultural norms but are easily their match when it comes to casual and systemic brutality.

William Adams, the eponymous protagonist, was as unlikely a character as ever there was in history; (Those who have also read James Clavell's `Shogun` will recognise the character of John Blackthorne as a fictional version of Adams) Adams became a close confidante of the Shogun and was promoted to the rank of Hatamoto, an honour never before nor since given to a non-Japanese.

This is a colourful, fascinating and - at times - violent description of an episode in history unfamiliar to many. Milton is an knowlegable guide and takes his readers on a most entertaining journey into the past. Recommended.


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