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The Pure Land

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  66 reviews
The year is 1858. Thomas Glover is a restless young man with dreams of escaping Aberdeen. Abandoning his childhood sweetheart, he takes a posting as a trader in Japan. Within ten years he amasses a great fortune, learns the ways of the samurai and helps overthrow the Shogun - a rapid rise from lowly shipping clerk to millionaire industrialist. Yet behind Glover's ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 7th 2007 by Canongate Books (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  587 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Oh boy. As soon as I finish with this review, I'll go and improve my rating for "Shogun"... Mr Clavell, I'm sorry for one star. At least your book has a story, and its style is something more than just separating gerunds with commas.

The praises on the cover should've rung the bell.
"A page-turner of the first order"? It's a dreadful record of the life of Thomas Glover, a trader from Aberdeen, who went to Japan and by basically selling arms and opium (oh and tea, and some other stuff) established
I thought I'd add the following. The book is about Thomas Blake Glover, born (1838-1911)and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland. When he was only 21 he was employed by Jardine Matheson in the tea trade and moved to Nagasaki. If one wants a detailed information of his accomplishments in Japan one can read Wikepedia, this book or, as I did, both. If one reads Wikepedia this man and his life does not come alive. The book does exactly this and more. Some say the opera Madame Butterfly is based on his ...more
Jess The Bookworm
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn't realise that this novel was based on a true story, which makes it even more interesting in my eyes.

The story follows Thomas Glover, a young man growing up in Scotland in the 1800s, who gets the opportunity to relocate to Japan. He leaves behind his family and his childhood sweetheart and sets off on the long journey to a very foreign land, a land that is hostile to outsiders.

Glover learns quickly and soon starts to see where there are opportunities to make money, and not always in the
Jun 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
I saw this book in my mom's bookshelf, and I wanted to read it because I've recently been interested in all things Japanese, and thought I might learn something from it. Plus, I haven't read any historical novel in years, and just wanted some "light" reading. I finished the book (I have read far worse), but I didn't really like it that much after all.

There are mainly two reasons why it gets only one star. The story is based on real events, the main character has actually existed. I feel that
Gypsy Lady
Dec 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Did not finish. Got to page 134 before I gave up. The book was not fleshed out well. It seemed like I was reading the outline for his novel.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
I rarely give out a single star, but this one just annoyed me to no end. It reads like a roughly sketched out fan fiction, consisting of imagined vignettes meant to show the historical figure's character (such as it is), interspersed with lots of exposition about Japan and the incursion of foreigners in the 19th century. I skimmed through a lot and mostly wanted to punch the protagonist in the face. The women characters (again, such as they are) are nothing more than props. Utterly unenjoyable.
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this. Loved, loved, loved it.

The Pure Land follows the life of Thomas Glover, a Scottish expatriot to Japan in the late 1850s who literally funded a revolution. We are with Glover when he first decides to travel so far from home in a tiny northern Scottish village and seek his fortune in this distant land. We sympathize with him as he stumbles through his early years in Japan, trying to learn the language and the culture and the business he has been hired to work for, all while evading the
May 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was so disappointed in this book. It called out to me from the library shelf. It looked like something I would really enjoy, a historical novel, a Scotish man and takes place in Japan in 1860's, love the idea. It was sooooo terrible. I was layed over in the Atlanta Airport and could not even force myself to read it. I was so mad!
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When a book gets awards- I really WANT to like it. However it felt sort of amateurish to me. There were some twists to it but wholly predictable. I am disappointed with this book. Where is my next 5 star-er?????
May 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I thought it was awful. I only gave it two stars because the first few chapters were interesting and I am interested enough in the history of the main character to try to find a better book about his story. It degenerated quickly.
I really wanted to like this book, as the story sounded so interesting. Unfortunately, the writing was just flat and boring, and I just never got into the story, so I gave up early on.
Rizwana Inam
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was hooked from the first page (maybe because I was picturing Glover as Max Irons,....WHAT? I had been obsessing over the Riot club, you can't blame me, he's gorgeous! ) Anyways enjoyed reading about his small country boy dreams, and saw the book mapping out like a movie. anyone that knows me will know that I'm one for romances, so when it the book kept screaming 'a tragic romance' I was totally going to read it, but there was NO romance whatsoever, he literally found a mistress overnight ...more
Oct 15, 2008 rated it liked it
I started out really liking this book. The opening had a quiet beauty to it that was really intriguing. It failed, however, to continue through the novel. In all, it was pretty interesting, but the beginning seemed to have little to do with the rest of the book. It could have easily been left out without affecting the bulk of the novel at all. I was also expecting some romance, since the back cover touted the story as being the inspiration for Madame Butterfly and Miss Saigon. There really ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
The author takes the facts of Thomas Blake Glover's life and weaves those facts into a novel that is enchanting. Glover was a daring young Scot who went to Japan when he was about 20 years old, made a fortune, but was a major player in bringing Japan into the modern world. The novel includes the girl left behind in Scotland and the two Japanese wives as well as the son he fathered by a courtesan. This is an amazing story beautifully written. On the downside, the first half of the novel jerks ...more
Undecided about the rating--I was swinging between 3 and 4, so gave it four. The core story of the book is that of Thomas Glover who brought Western ship building, the locomotive and other technology to Japan, and who is the father of Kirin beer. What got me was the first chapter, and the 2nd and 3rd to last chapters. What was their purpose? Why show us Nagasaki just after the bomb? Why come back to it and even bring us through to the 21st century. These 3 chapters stood out as sore thumbs to ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
The Pure Land is like Shibumi, no, more like Shogun, that I read as a teen (I wonder if I put it in my Goodreads). It is interesting, a pretty quick read...but for some reason, I'm not feeling it like Shogun, not sure why. It just didn't pick me up and float me away to the island kingdom for some reason.
I think I'm harder to please, at my age. When I read Shogun when I was 18 or so, I was just like, awesome dude, I'm gonna get a sword and learn how to count to a hundred strokes when I'm having
Jul 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I do enjoy stories set in Japan and Spence does give a certain feel for the culture of this country but it seems very much a Westernised view of Japanese culture. At times the story was very disconnected and confusing and Glover often proves a less than reliable character. The attitudes towards Japanese women was pretty typical of the time for a Western man but their attitude towards his taking a Japanese wife seemed very accepting. If you enjoy novels about Japan and it's culture you'd be ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again I am surprised by my interest in historical fiction. This novel is about Thomas Glover the "famous" (I had never heard of him) Scottish Entrepreneur who opened up Japanese markets to the west and visa versa.
Definitely worth the read if you have an interest in Japanese culture and recent history its worth a read.
The writing style isn't anything fancy, its a little bland ion most parts but the characters are believable and interesting enough to make up for it.
It kinda dragged on at the end
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Eh. If this book wasn't about an actual famous Aberdonian who ventured to Japan, I wouldn't have finished it. The curiosity about old Aberdeen and even older Japan kept me reading, but that was more personal curiosity. The writing was flat and boring. The women were one dimensional. I know Thomas glover was a real person, but his character was just a Gary Stu in this telling. There was no emotion or feeling, just Thomas sassing his way from one daft move to the next with no real feeling of risk ...more
Jan 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the tumultuous years prior to the Meiji Restoration, The Pure Land brings to life the early years of Thomas Glover, the young Scot who helped overthrow the Shogun and set Japan on its hell-for-leather modernization. Equal parts romance and adventure (think "Madam Butterfly" plus "The Last Samurai"), this work imagines how Japan got under his skin, a Japan mysterious, beautiful, and still very dangerous.
Barbro Kinnunen
Interesting story about Japan's history and the story of a pioneer European in the middle of the great changes into a leading country of everything. I never got hooked though but as I was reading this in my book club I kept on reading. Never dull but never breath taking either.

If you want to learn something about Japan it's a nice read.

Book club choice nr 22 for April 1, 2009.
Oct 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If it was possible, there wouldn't be any star at my rating.
I don't think anyone who has read first Shogun by James Clavel or The thousands autumns of Jacob De Zoet can like this Alan Spence's book.
It's is shallow, the main character is boring, and we don't learn anything interesting about Japan.
I gave up reading after 80 pages, and the only thing said about Japan was "they eat rice and fish for breakfast".
A total disappointment.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mark Macleod
Recommended to Chris by: Book Club
Shelves: book-club
Just finished this in time for Book Club today. I really enjoyed it. Very like James Clavell's books of Shogun, Gai Jin etc. Tells the story of a NE Scotland man Tom Glover from Aberdeen who was integral in making Japan the industrial nation it is today. Set in late 19th early 20th century. Great story though not the best writing in the world. I like books like this about the japanese way of life, bushido code, haikus etc etc.
Elizabeth Mahler
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love the historical goodies.
Recommended to Elizabeth by: a guy at Barnes & Noble.
This book lines up with just the things I like:
a historical telling of a true story with a little romance added for spice, & it's set in Japan! What more could I ask for in a book?

It's also well written, so that helps of course. I'm burning through this book like I haven't burned through a book in so long. i highly recommend it.
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This historical novel describes the life of Thomas Glover, one of the first westerners into Japan in the middle of the 19th century, and the inspiration for Madame Butterfly. Very readable and interesting, and gives a little of the feeling of what it would have been like to visit Japan in those early days of its opening to the West.
Prostitution and F-bombs aside...this book begins with the H-bomb and works its way backwards detailing how a Scottish man helped shape Japan's history. Miss Saigon and Madame Butterfly (note the prostitution) were losely based on his life...
Also was enlightened on "Mitsubishi"
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was really great from a historical perspective. I learned so much about this period in Japanese history. The author's story-telling voice seemed lacking to me...jumpy, choppy and not well polished. It was harder to fall in love with these characters because of the that.
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
The story really comes to life. I don't actually know much about Thomas Glover myself, since I just picked up the book from the shelf browsing the library for something to read for fun, but this was an interesting read. It definitely made me interested to learn more.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I enjoy historical books which have settings in other cultures...19th century Japan, from a Scottish man's perspective was very interesting. To top it off, this book is loosely based around a true story.
Apr 07, 2014 rated it liked it
A decent historical fiction. Really enjoyed learning more about the history of Japan and did some research into the main character, who is a real person who did much to make Japan into the country it is today. However, too many sex scenes to recommend to all readers.
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Alan Spence (born 1947) is a Scottish writer and is Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, where he is also artistic director of the annual WORD Festival. He was born in Glasgow, and much of his work is set in the city.

Spence is an award-winning poet and playwright, novelist and short-story writer. His first work was the collection of short stories Its Colours They are Fine,
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