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The Tale Of Murasaki

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,791 ratings  ·  229 reviews
In a wonderful world shaped by beauty and poetry, ancient traditions and popular intrigue, a young woman at the centre of the eleventh-century Japanese imperial court observes the exotic world around her. Murasaki sees everything, the Emperor and Empress, aristocrats and concubines, warriors and servants, her own family. She records a remarkable place of political and sexu ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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M.J. Fiori
I very much enjoyed Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki while I was reading it. But it was only after I read two other books that I realized exactly how good the book was.

These other two books were the real-life memoirs/diaries of Murasaki Shikibu (author of The Tale of Genji, the 11th century masterpiece considered by many to be the world's first novel) and A Tale of Flowering Fortunes, a classical Heian work that deals with the same age. (The latter book has been itself "reworked" in A Tale of
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japanese history enthusiasts
This book is not for everyone. Those who have little interest or enthusiasm for very, very old Japanese history and customs will probably find this book a bit tedious. Also, for those with basically no knowledge of Japanese character, the sensibilities presented here may be off putting. Heian era Japan is a world unto itself, having more strangeness and ephemeral qualities than any modern author could hope to give it and Liza Dalby does an admirable job trying to breath life into it again. For a ...more
Jan 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Liza Dalby's enchanting book The Tale of Murasaki is a brilliantly imagined fictional biography of the 11th-century Japanese writer Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji. Dalby's novel draws directly from the surviving fragments of Murasaki's own diary and poetry to create a vivid and emotionally detailed portrait of an intelligent, sensitive and complex woman drawn initially to writing stories about the amorous encounters of Prince Genji as a means of entertaining her friends and expres ...more
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
I couldn't relate to the main character, Murasaki. The author did not provide enough details to make the emotions and situations believable... or they simply weren't believable to begin with.
Rebecca Huston
A gorgeous novel to read, and a delight. It's free of the usual idiocies that most Western novelists tend to throw into Japanese settings, and a must-read for anyone interested in Heian culture or The Tale of Genji.

For the longer review, please go here:
Murasaki Shikibu was the author of the first novel in history, and the participant in the refined and vibrant culture of the 11th century Japanese imperial court. For a story based on the life of such a person this book is a bit slow and unexciting.

Murasaki is not the only potentially fascinating character in this book, there are other legendary ladies of letters: Sei Shōnagon, Izumi Shikibu, Mother of Michitsuna (the author of The Gossamer Diary), Akazome Emon... but they all seem to be simply
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gems, fiction
I hate that I will never again read The Tale of Murasaki for the first time. Liza Dalby's story transcended time. While I was between these pages I felt I was looking through a window into 11th century Japan. That's a precious talent with precious results: how the main character, Murasaki, and I share some of the same concerns and angst—even across time we are not alone in our fears. And while some reviewers criticized the book's slow pace, I didn't mind. I felt the pacing reflected the languish ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first/only American to qualify as a geisha wrote this in the first person, as a semi-fictionalised autobiography of an 11th century author who was also lady-in-waiting to an empress. She was famous for the tales of a character called Genji, but also wrote poems and a journal. The modern author used the journal and poems to construct the story, creating parallels between her life and that of the main characters in her tales. It's a fascinating insight into medieval Japanese court life, with l ...more
Prima străină devenită gheișă, cu un doctorat în antropologie și cu o mare pasiune pentru cultura japoneză, scriitoarea americană Liza Dalby reconstituie în Povestea doamnei Murasaki atât povestea unei epoci (sfârșitul epocii Heian), cât și povestea unei cărți (Povestea Prințului Genji, primul roman al literaturii japoneze și, se pare, al lumii, cu mult înaintea lui Don Quijote). Romanul urmărește atât viața scriitoarei Shikibu Murasaki, pe care Liza Dalby o reconstituie din puținele mărturii ră ...more
Oh hey, look, it's my first decent review!

Now let's get to the point...

I was conflicted about how much I liked this book... I finished it unable to get rid of the sense of the incomplete. I expected a little more from a book detailing the life of such an important woman.

The story details the life and musings of Japan's greatest author of antiquity - the fabled Murasaki Shikibu, who rose as a prominent figure in the Japanese imperial court in 11th century. She was mysterious, intelligent and meti
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I've had this book for a long time (along with the Tale of Genji), and it is a perfect summer escape to the life of a Lady at Japanese court in the 11th century. This may sound rather dry, but Liza has taken all of Murasaki's poems as well as her journals and, of course, the "Tale," and created a very interesting book of Kyoto as seen by a woman from age 10 to 60. No detail too small, from court intrigue, family squabbles, romance with a young chinese noble, plants, robes, snow, childbirth, and ...more
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novela-historica
Intima recreación de la vida femenina en el hogar y la corte japonesas en la transición entre los siglos X y XI.Delicadas descripciones de interior y naturaleza salpicadas de Haikus medievales.
Creo que no estaba yo para tanta levedad y sutileza. Me ha parecido un aburrido número de casa y jardín con poesía en lugar de fotos.
Roberta McDonnell
A fascinating insight into Japanese court life and the culture of that early century, experienced through the life of one young woman. So well researched and authentic, as well as deeply emotional, a brilliant example of social anthropology translating into very readable fiction - inspiring!
Karine Mon coin lecture
Adoré. Maintenant, je veux aller au Japon. Mais au Japon de l'an 1000. Va falloir appeler le Docteur!
Kristina  UK
I'm fascinated by Japanese and Chinese culture and history but parts of this book are like wading through mud.
So, context really matters. I suspect this would have been a 3.5 star read if this was just a straightforward novel. However, because this is styled as Murasaki's autobiography, many things become strengths when they would have been weaknesses in third person prose.

This book is beautiful and engrossing, and I recommend getting the audiobook if you can because I found it enhanced that feeling of a woman from a millennia ago telling me about her entire life. This isn't going to be for every audie
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story takes place in eleventh century Japan and is based on a real person. Dalby uses fragments of Murasaki's letters and memoirs to recreate the life of the woman who wrote Tale of Genji, a masterpiece of Japanese literature.
This is the perfect example of why I love historical fiction. Now I have to read Murasaki's Tale of Genji.
George Henry
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Considering the author's intentions and motivations, this book is a truly exceptional example of the writer's craft. It is very involving and engaging to the reader, even considering that the main character, Fuji, was a woman who lived in 11th-century Japan and the reader, in this case, is a 21st-century American man. As far as the differences between my way of life and hers are concerned, the story almost might as well have been about a space alien - except that, of course, the human culture of ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-readable
I really loved this book. I really loved The Tale of Genji and I first read it in high school when all my emotions and passion felt stronger because I was feeling them for the first time. So that classic Heian period novel really touched me in its honest portrayal of a flawed but terribly charming Prince Genji.
So when I heard that there was a fiction book out about the author's life...well, I bought it right away and devoured it in one day.
This is beautifully written and a great starter for peop
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found that being obsessed with Japanese culture, past and present, helped in reading this book. My interpretation of why many readers "didn't relate to the main character" or found the story "unbelievable" or "slow" is a lack of familiarity with the very alien culture and style (to those of non-Asian background, reading, or experience).

Part of the slowness of the book is that it's not an action book by any means, and that it's much like real life--full of small rather than exciting events, wi
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone interested in Tales of Genji but who has no prior knowledge of Japanes court society.
The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel is an introduction to the Japanese classic, and the first novel ever written, The Tale of Genji. It is a fictional account of the life of Lady Murasaki Shikubu, the author of the Tales of Genji, written in a similar style to her classic novel, but adding all the explanations and details about court society that are omitted from the original classic novel. It helps the reader to understand the use of poetry for communication andthe difficulty of reading between the l ...more
The endorsement from Arthur Golden (of Memoirs of a Geisha infamy) already lowered my expectations.

The first part of the book was pleasant, even though the plot and characters were poorly imagined. As soon as Murasaki gets to court, however, the novel plateaus out into sheer repetitive, tedious drivel.

For a more richly creative engagement with the historical figure of Murasaki and her novel, Tale of Genji, I recommend Fumiko Enchi's work, especially Masks. Enchi achieves what Dalby cannot--a r
Kerry & naomi
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper
A friend sent me The Tale of Murasaki by Liz Dalby. I’d had this novel on my list to buy for a while, but other books took precedence. Once I received the book, it sat on my nightstand in “the stack” for a few weeks before I finally could get to it—I even pre-empted a couple of other books in the queue. I shouldn’t have waited so long.

The Plot

Framed by letters from Katako, Murasaki Shikibu’s daughter, to her own daughter, The Tale of Murasaki, details the life of the author of The Tale of Genji
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revisiting this:
My old friend Murasaki
A beautiful life
Woven out of poetry
And gossamer history.

Usually historical novels do not appeal to me, but Murasaki Shikibu--the world's first novelist--can't fail to appeal. Descriptions of elegant Heian Era court life might explain part of my joy in it, but I think the large swaths of Murasaki's own poetry and diary that Dalby sprinkles liberally throughout the text goes further.

I highly recommend this story for anyone who likes poetry, history, Japan, te
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer10
I enjoyed the first part, and learned a few things about Japan (and China, due to Murasaki's friendship with a Chinese man).

However, the minutiae of the Japanese court, the ladies, the servants, the arrangements and endless poems didn't really grab my attention.

I did learn that most people's lives there seemed to be at the whim of man and fate.

10 points for the summer09 challenge and not easily achieved
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was enthralled with this picture of 11th century Japan, a fictional memoir of Murasaki Shikibu, authhor of Tale of Genji, the world's first novel. Based on diaries and poetry, Dalby gives us a detailed portrayal of the life of a well educated young woman, daughter of a scholar, and later at the Imperial Court, - the seasons, clothing, rituals, intrique, literature and the need to live in harmony with nature. A little too long perhaps, but still a page turner.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great, THIS is what I wanted from "Memoirs of a Geisha" and didn't get.
Maybe I just prefer the style of life in Japan 1000 years ago rather than 100?
The atmosphere was so vividly painted, I really felt like I got a good idea of the life she lead.
Now of course I must read the real Murasaki's "Tale of Genji" - this book here is a fictional tale of the life of that author, based on her writings and what little scraps there are surviving of her actual life.
I found this a beautifully written imagining of the life of Lady Murasaki, author of The Tale of Genji, interwoven with her actual journal writings. I'd be very interested to read her journal now, as I really couldn't tell which bits were Murasaki and which bits were Dalby, who achieved an elegant, slightly distant style without sacrificing emotion.
A wonderfully realized version of Murasaki Shikibu's life, based on a wide variety of early Japanese texts by Murasaki or contemporary with her. Yes, one feels, this is what it might have been like.
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With its fascinating story of characters caught up in a world they themselves don't understand, Hidden Buddhas may well be Liza Dalby's best work yet. Besides taking us on a journey through little-known corners of Japan, it offers us an engaging and believable portrait of people driven to do things they may not have imagined." --Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

According to esoteric Bu

“Fate is unmoved by one's pitiful hopes; what changes, bowing to fate, is what one hopes for.” 12 likes
“The moon is more interesting than the unchanging sun. That is surely why it is used in poetry and the sun is not—unless one talks of dawn or dusk, when the sun briefly hovers on the edge of day.” 10 likes
More quotes…