The year is 1615. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the greatest shogun in Japanese history, has just eliminated the last meaningful opposition in the land. Before he can celebrate his victory though, he must decide the fate of Ishikawa Jozan, a man once counted amongst his most loyal retainers but whose mistake in battle almost cost Ieyasu his life. Rather than invite Ishikawa to commit suicide, Ieyasu chooses a far more subtle and insidious punishment, challenging Ishikawa to re-examine the decisions that led to his nearly fatal mistake. Consequently, he must make his way alone in a new world order where constrictive social roles are rapidly being codified and the biggest obstacle a person can face is not belonging to a group.
The Samurai Poet will transport you to seventeenth century Japan and challenge preconceptions about what life was really like in the time of the samurai. Individuals and groups had more freedom than is generally believed, but the consequences of transgressing legal and social boundaries could still be lethal. Once you see Japan through the eyes of Ishikawa Jozan, you will never think about it the same way again.
Travis Belrose was inspired to write The Samurai Poet after repeated visits to Shisendo convinced him that there was far more to Ishikawa Jozan's life than tourist pamphlets and biographical sketches indicated. By using fictionalized biography to stretch the novel form, he has endeavoured to combine the best of history and fiction to tell Ishikawa's story. He currently resides in Canada where he is at work on his next novel.
Being this book was outside of my preferred genre, recommended by a close friend, I would say I still enjoyed the story although at times it did feel a bit ‘dragging’ somewhat. The war time vs. peace time stories are both filled with interesting inner monologue struggles. Personally, I enjoyed more of the peace time transition and discovery/journey of the character ‘living his days out’ far removed from the very different lifestyle of his younger years as a Samurai. If you can read through the beginning and middle of the war time story with patience, then engage your inner self when character is finding himself through his transition from Samurai to Poet, it could bring much reflection for your own life. It could, as it did for me, stir thoughts of what your younger year experiences gave you in contrast to the appreciation of your maturity later in life. Realizing its simplicity, and clearer vision of connecting yourself internally with oneself as well as nature and essentially being emotionally aware and grateful for life. This was my experience in reading this book and is why I gave it four stars. It resonated internally to me.
Although an engaging, well-written historical novel I fear the author didn't know when to stop. The tight narrative and sympathetic character of part 1 are both missing from part 2, which is comparatively directionless.