Jgrace's Reviews > The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
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's review
Aug 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, jgrace, japan, judithg, play-book-tag, read-in-2011, relationships, women-writers, ww2, family-relationships, asia, 20th-century
Read from August 03 to 05, 2011 — I own a copy

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms – Gail Tsukiyama
4 stars
The orphaned brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, are being raised in a traditional Japanese household by their grandparents. Their story begins in 1939 and continues through the war and its aftermath. Considerably different in appearance and temperament, the brother’s choose traditional careers during the years of Japan’s greatest upheaval. Hiroshi becomes a famous Sumo wrestler while Kenji becomes a master craftsman of Noh masks. The story follows their family through tragedies and triumphs that parallel the reconstruction of postwar Japan.

The book begins in 1966 as Hiroshi is retiring from a victorious sumo career. Although the rest of the story is told in present tense there is a sense of distance and nostalgia throughout. Events progress fairly rapidly through the decades. Sometimes, I felt I wanted a bit more detail. Tsukiyama tends to depict a climatic event, such as a bombing, an accident or a death, and then shift scenes fairly quickly to show how the character has been affected by the event years later.

I found this book very hard to put down. All of the characters felt authentic. They had a completely universal familiarity of people who suffer and survive the hard times. Like,The Book Thief, this book shows how common citizens suffer in a country controlled by on oppressive, militaristic government. The dual careers of Sumo and Noh Theater were perfect to convey the atmosphere of Japan during the 1950’s as the country began to recover its pride and identity.

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