Laurel Y's Reviews > The Samurai's Garden

The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
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Oct 23, 2008

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The novel The Samurai’s Garden was written by Gail Tsukiyama. Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father. She went to San Francisco State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree as well as a Master of Arts Degree. Other books that she has written include Women of the Silk and The Language of Threads. The Samurai’s Garden is about a young Chinese man named Stephen who is sent to their family’s summer home in Japan to recover from Tuberculosis. This story takes place in the 1930’s, during the Second World War, which was against China and Japan. While Stephen is slowly recovering, he befriends the housekeeper, Matsu, his friend, Sachi, and a young girl named Keiko. Throughout the novel, Stephen learns many details about these peoples’ tragic pasts, including the heart-wrenching story of how Sachi was diagnosed with leprosy as a child and now forced to live a secluded life among other lepers in the town of Yamagutchi.
One of the things that makes the novel so interesting is the characterization. The characters in the novel are so life-like, that you feel as if they are actually real. This makes the story a lot more relatable, and you can really felt the emotions that the author is trying to portray the characters feeling. It also makes the story more touching and emotional, because you grew so attached to the characters, so when something tragic happens to one of them it causes you to feel the same grief as well. Another thing that I liked about this novel was that it was incredibly descriptive. It feels like you are actually on the beach of Japan or in the crowded city of Hong Kong at the time. You can picture everything that the author says so vividly in your mind, making the story almost come to life in some parts. These ideas as well as others make the story to be a great deal better.
However, a weakness that I found in the novel was the fact that in some parts the book could get very dull. The story is written as the journal of Stephen, and I feel that a lot of the days that he captures are the same thing over and over again, and altogether extremely repetitive at points. This also makes the book feel like it is stretched out longer than it should be. You could practically strip away about 30 or so pages from the text. This causes the story to be somewhat predictable at points, and hard to keep your focus on. I think what the author could have done to improve the story was either shorten it or add a little more plot to the novel. Otherwise, there isn’t much to criticize about her work.
Despite these flaws in the novel, The Samurai’s Garden was all-in-all a pretty good read. It isn’t too hard to understand, but at the same time causes you to think a lot. Even though it can get to be a bit dull at points, there are some spots that are very exciting and entertaining to read. You feel like you really know the characters by the end, and you can really relate to their personalities and the way they handle situations. I think that the people who would be interested in this book are people who find Chinese and Japanese cultures interesting, or want to learn more about things like the Second World War or how people with leprosy were treated during that time period. This book is also for someone who would not mind reading a sad book, and although the ending isn’t exactly sad, it does not end with something especially joyful, and leaves a lot to be questioned. Although I am not one who typically enjoys tragic books, I am quite glad that I chose to read The Samurai’s Garden.
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