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Blossoms and Shadows by Gillian Rubinstein

Blossoms and Shadows

by Gillian Rubinstein

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585204,058 (2.64)2



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Hmm, a mixed bag here. It was elegantly written, though lacking some of the sheer loveliness of the author's Otori books, and it was interesting to get a female perspective on those shattering events of the Bakumatsu. However, it strained at times to insert Tsuru, the lead character, into those events, and it often felt far too much like a wooden history lesson - the best historical novels steer clear of so much exposition and absorb it into the flow of the narrative (though I now finally feel that I understand the role of Choshu and Satsuma in the scheme of things :-). On top of that, there was considerable woodenness in how her Japanese characters would explain things to each other that no Japanese person would need explained, and I'm really not certain about some of the structural tics of the novel (namely the three page vignettes with characters we never otherwise meet in the course of the story). ( )
  salimbol | Jun 9, 2013 |
Please note, if you've read The Tales of the Otori by Hearn think of this book as a totally different and nothing like the former except it is located in Japan.
With that out of the way.... This is a decent starter for historical fiction. Hearn's dilemma is she packs in so much information and names that unless you've had at least some basic Japanese history you'll find the story become tedious, which it did. However, she has a flair for words, story, and great character development so I'll be checking in with her next book to see her progress.
postscript: if you haven't read The Tales of the Otori - excellent series!! ( )
  revslick | Oct 1, 2012 |
After hearing great things about Hearn's other books this was a disapointment as I just couldn't get into it. ( )
  ecumenicalcouncil | Aug 11, 2012 |
Ugh. I don’t really know how to say this eloquently but here it is: this book sucked. Dreadfully. It had so much promise – Japan, historical fiction, a strong female character, a beautiful cover…and yet I had to force myself to read it. It was boring, I couldn’t keep track of the characters and it jumped around a lot. I think I know even less now of the samurai era than before I started.

Blossoms and Shadows is set in 1860s Japan, as Westerners began to enter the country and Japan itself was in a revolution. We follow Tsuru, a doctor’s daughter, as she grows up, gets married and works in war-ravaged Japan. She has an illicit relationship with a family member while pretending to be a man, suffers a breakdown, goes back to her husband and eventually adopts her sister’s child. Tsuru occasionally disappears during the book and we follow a Japanese historical figure for a chapter. I found this particularly difficult as I couldn’t keep track of their names (and I studied Japanese for six years!) nor did they have a lot of meaning or anything memorable to keep them in my head.

While beautifully presented, this novel has little to recommend it. Perhaps if you are already familiar with this period in Japanese history, you might enjoy it. Tsuru is an uncomfortable character, chopping and changing in sex, her ambition and loves. It’s hard to follow and frankly, quite boring. ( )
  birdsam0610 | Feb 13, 2011 |
Beautifully written and interesting thoughts about the role, position and desires of women but ultimately a dull read. ( )
  swizzlecroc | Jan 28, 2011 |
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Book description
Japan, 1857. For centuries Japan has been on its own, isolated by choice from the rest of the world. But the Western powers are now at its shores, its government is crumbling and revolution is building. The age of the samurai is ending and in its place a new Japan will be born.
Into this turmoil steps a young woman. Tsuru expects to marry a man of her parents' choice but her life is taken over by the beliefs of the new age and by the passionate men around her. Their slogan is sonnojoi (revere the Emperor, expel the foreigners), their preferreed method is violence.
Blossoms and Shadows is a compelling and beautiful tale of love and war, women and men, and the rise of modern Japan. [Summary taken from back cover]
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This is the story of the birth of modern Japan, told by Tsuru, a young woman who breaks every stereotype of the Japanese lady. We meet her on the day of her sister's wedding, and soon realise that she will not accept the same domestic role that her sister is about to take on.… (more)

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