Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Mask Carver's Son” as Want to Read:
The Mask Carver's Son
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Mask Carver's Son

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  394 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
1890. Yamamoto Kiyoki is a Japanese art student, dreaming of studying in Paris with the inspiring and vibrant Impressionist painters.

Yamamoto Ryusei is Kiyoki’s father. Ryusei’s art, carving intricate masks for traditional Japanese theater, has been his refuge from loneliness since the death of his beloved wife, and he is revered as the most inspired artist of his kind. He
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Berkley
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Mask Carver's Son, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Mask Carver's Son

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default

I wore my destiny like a too-tight robe in which I could not breathe. Each thread of fabric was woven by an ancestor, the color chosen by fingers not my own.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century Yamamoto Kiyoki is born in Daigo, Kyoto. Kiyoke’s maternal grandfather, like his ancestors, is a renowned Noh actor. Yamamoto Yuji is delighted to have Yamamoto Ryusei as his son-in-law and adopted son as Ryusei has distinguished himself as an exceptional carver of Noh masks, arguably the best car
Want your book to be considered DEEP by default? Set it in Japan.

Bonus points if you don’t use contractions, don’t let the characters interact or even speak much, and change scene every four sentences, even if nothing is happening. And if you happen to know what Wikipedia is, you can write a historical novel!

This is one of those books. In addition to the stuff listed above, the plot doesn’t make much sense. So there is a family of noh actors – or actor, his wife and daughter – living in a social
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, you read a novel that haunts you long after the last page has been turned. For me, THE MASK CARVER'S SON is one of those rare gifts.

With an elegiac air and consummate elegance of prose, author Alyson Richman depicts Japan and Paris in the late 1800s through the eyes of Yamamoto Kiyoki, the titular son of a gifted but tormented mask carver marked by tragedy, who finds refuge in the ancient customs of the Japanese theater. Yearning to study the new modes of painting embodied by the Imp
This is one of the best novels I've read dealing with artists. It involves what art means to artists, and different cultural approaches to art. In Japan before the 20th century, art was family and tradition based. In the West artists are individuals. They are expected to be original rather than adhere to the type of art their family or tradition produces. Kiyoki, the central character, thinks like a Westerner about art. He totally misunderstands his father. There are some high costs involved in ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kiyoki is the son of Yamamoto Ryusei, a master carver of Noh masks, and Etsuko, the only child of a famous Noh actor. Etsuko dies giving birth to Kiyoki. Her death devastates the family, especially Ryusei. Already aloof and almost otherwordly, he withdraws even more into himself. Kiyoki is raised largely by his devoted grandmother. He grows up in an atmosphere steeped in art and drama - the Noh theater of his grandfather and the almost magical Noh masks created by his father, who is acclaimed a ...more
Gary Inbinder
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In her debut novel,Alyson Richman produced a brilliant narrative of the artist as marginalized other, the soul behind the mask. Set in Meiji Era (1867-1912) Japan and France at the time of the Impressionists, the narrative reveals the protagonist's estrangement and isolation, first as an artist drawn to the West, which alienates him from his father and his traditional culture, as a Gay man, which alienates him from a straight society, and as an Easterner in the West. Moreover, he is an artist ev ...more
I wanted to like this book more. 3.5 stars is more like how I felt about it. I truly enjoyed the first half of the story and if the rest of the book had remained consistent, I would have been thrilled to give it 5 stars.

There were some annoying editing issues in a few places that were distracting and I couldn't keep myself from expecting more. (There weren't though.)

The Japanese art history felt very well researched and I was fascinated with the history of Noh and the masks and their carving. I
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
This tale of, well, a mask carver's son, takes place in turn-of-the-century Japan. It's an interesting look at what art was like during this time, and how someone like Kiyoki struggles against tradition and society's mores. At times, it felt like I was reading a textbook, and overall, Kiyoki's tale begs the question: Is it worth pursuing true passion at the cost of everything else?
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have read all of her books now. This was my least favorite. It was very sad and there was little redemption. She is still a very engaging author and I like her style.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must be one of the few who didn't enjoy this book. I found it tedious and whiny
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just read another sad story.... I need to find a wonderful chic book to pull me up. This was a well-written book by Alyson Richman (she also wrote "The Lost WIfe"), but the story is so sad. Richman has a very pleasant way of writing. Her words just flow along the pages telling her story in such a soft, quiet way.

This book is about Kiyoki (name means pure wood), the son of a famous Noh mask carver. In the Noh theatre, tradition is that the son will fall into the same line of work as the father
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Richman's earlier novels but this one left me perplexed. There were not any highlights in this book, the writing style was trite in contrast to lovely ( in her previous books), no character development or consistent plot. I initially thought that it will grow on me like some of her novels but it got worse as it progressed. I can't say that I won't read more novels by her but I do hope that the next novel is much better than this one. If there is one thing positive I can say abou ...more
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ended up liking this much more than I liked it at the beginning, which is unusual, since the beginning is about family relationships (which I typically enjoy) and the ending is more about art. But her writing grew on me. At first I thought it was too "pretty" but then I think it loosened up, or maybe I did. I thought the main character's transition was well-done, and I loved the parts about Paris.
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Post Meiji family saga -- greatly enjoyed but I wonder if you can call a little boy chan? Always thought it was 'kun' so I have reservations about accuracy.
Brandon Shire
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books you horde, keeping it to yourself to read again and again.
Lisa Miller
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Richman writes beautifully.
I have loved all of her books. This one, though different, left me with the same sense of satisfaction and true appreciation of her talent.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was a huge disappointment--if I were a book quitter, I'd have quit this one a dozen different times. Perhaps my expectations were too high--I've absolutely loved all of Alyson Richman's other books that I've read. This one, however, just never hooked me.

The book was very sad--start to finish, just incredibly depressing, with really no redemption at all, at any point in the story. I never felt a sense of sympathy for the main character, I mostly just thought he made a lot of poor decis
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Another instance in which I was persuaded to buy a book based on reader's reviews.
From my perspective the plot moved along slower than glue.
And I never did feel much sympathy for the main character which
left me wondering - what kind of readers this book was for?
I gave it a two star rating for while I did not particularly care for the book
it was written quite decently.

For readers of the "Lost Wife," this book does not come close to generating
the interest or the same level of quality that book hel
Merel Rolf
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is pure kitsch.

But it is also sad, and beautiful, and an excellent holiday read! Enjoyed reading especially the second half.
The Mask Carver's Son by Alyson Richman. This takes place in the turn of the 1900's century starting in a very beautiful rural area and continues that way for a long time including the character and traditions of the area, so different from the big city. It starts with a full breadth with emphasis on the emotional background of the mask carver himself and the events and experiences that went along with it. Then it follows through with his very traditionally based marriage, the family life and th ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This is one of those books that grabs you and doesn't let go. Alyson Richman's ability to tell a story appears effortless. The writing is excellent and the subject matter fascinating. I found myself stopping again and again just to marvel at the visceral strength of her descriptions and the images they evoked.

A wonderful read for anyone interested in Japanese or French culture, "The Mask Carver's Son" is one of those books that makes you want to know more. And I don't mean this in the sense tha
Patty Mccormick
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is about a young man who is expected to grow up to be a mask carver, but he wishes to paint. It is his journey to be himself and break from his traditions and his culture, and the expectations of his family. This is a story of love and loss and struggle of one man to be what he wants to be. He finds it difficult to fit in France and in his homeland Japan. He follows his own dream and as many artists is not recognized or seen as a success until after his death.

I found this to be an enlighten
Aug 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway. It is a very well written character study told through beautiful language. The story of an artist trying to break free from the strict conventions and traditions of his culture, not to mention strong family ties to the legendary Japanese Noh theater, it is a novel of heartbreaking sacrifice. It is told by the artist as an old man reflecting on the time in his life when, as a young man, he was desperate not to become imprisoned by his family legacy, as his fath ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fortunately for me, I judged this book by its cover, a pastel landscape featuring the Eiffel Tower framed by a plum branch in full blossom. Most of the story takes place in the mid to late Meiji Era in Japan and fin de siecle Paris. The mask carver's son wants to paint like the Western Impressionists but he is expected to follow in his father's footsteps and carve Noh masks. Kiyoki, suspended between two cultures and eras, is plagued by inner turmoil which grows tiresome at times.

This was appar
My last book read this year and its one of my favourites.

The style of writing is crisp and informative of a culture and its traditions I wasn't familiar with. I felt drawn into the story and could see each scene played out as if I was actually living it. At times It seemed as if I lfelt and experienced the emotions of the carver's son as if they were my own.

I could identify with several aspects of the life of the son and at times with those of other characters. Somehow this book really resonated
Mar 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Although I have read two other Alyson Richman books (The Lost Wife and Swedish Tango), I did not care for this one as much. Possibly the subject matter. Japan in the late 1800s and art. Neither of great interest to me. But I also thought she put too much time into describing the art. Too much detail that I think only an artist would appreciate. Possibly she was trying to show how much art (or wood carving) can take the place of humans. As with her other books, the main characters kept their torm ...more
Carolyn Lind
"I know my father carved this one especially for me. And so it is the only one that hangs on my wall. It stares at me with the same dark, bottomless eyes that only my father had. It stares at me without mercy. Those eyes, which see me for all I ever was and all that I am now. Those eyes, still pleading with me to uncover my chisels, those eyes that beseech me to complete its face."

A tale of father and son whose paths must part if the son is to fulfill his own dreams. The story builds sad upon sa
September Dee
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A story of east meets west and time honored traditions facing those of modern yearnings. The central character lives his life trying to honour his family and yet is drawn to his own interests and those that he feels he has a talent for. The story is poignant and heart wrenching as well as hopeful. While one yearns for something better for oneself one may also feel guilty as for betraying family and tradition. The book is well written and smoothly transports you through the lives of Kiyoki, his f ...more
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A lyrical book that took me into Japan in the 1890s which was a period of transition as the country was opened to the west. Yamamoto Kiyoki is the son of a famous mask carver in the Noh theatre tradition and the grandson of a famous Noh actor. Me hen he turns his back on the family tradition in order to become an artist, he harms the tenuous relationship he has with his father. This is a coming of age novel, as exploration of the compulsion to create art and a look at the challenges of living is ...more
Jeanne Halloran
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
The author, Alyson Richman, is a gifted writer. Her images are lyrical and beautiful. But what a waste of talent on such a depressing story! There is only heartbreak after heartbreak with no relief from the pain and no spiritual uplifting to give depth to the experience. I read to free my soul, this novel drowned it in hopelessness. I can't recommend this novel to anyone as the reading experience is a complete downer. I am giving the book three stars in recognition of the excellent writing style ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Burden of Desire
  • Appetite
  • The Painting
  • The Wolves of St. Peter's
  • Stealing Mona Lisa
  • Haussmann, or the Distinction
  • Things Can Only Get Feta: Two Journalists and Their Crazy Dog Living Through the Greek Crisis
  • The Reluctant Matchmaker
  • Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods
  • Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet
  • The Blood of Lorraine: A Novel
  • The Painter's Apprentice
  • Under the Hawthorn Tree
  • Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart
  • Blindspot
  • In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art
  • The Other Rembrandt
  • Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo
Alyson Richman is the author of six historical novels including "The Mask Carver's Son," "The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango)," The Last Van Gogh," and three international bestsellers: "The Lost Wife.," "The Garden of Letters" and "The Velvet Hours." Her books have been translated into 20 languages. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She curre ...more
More about Alyson Richman...