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The Tale of Murasaki

by Liza Dalby

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1,1162212,908 (3.78)33
One of the famous work of Japanese literature is the eleventh-century Tale of Genji by a woman of the imperial court. This title evokes Murasaki's close family, the men and women she loved, the vortex of high politics she was drawn into at court, and the way in which Murasaki came to write her masterpiece.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
A bit tedious at times but this book contains a beautiful and captivating description of tenth century Japan. The plot is minimal; This is not for those who demand lots of action, plot twists, heavy romance, or sex. But if you can enjoy a contemplative read and to feel what it must have been like to live in the tenth century as a noble lady in the emperor's court, then this is for you. Gorgeous. ( )
1 vote bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
While the book is interesting in that it is full of period detail, the story drags pretty badly. I enjoyed the insight into a writer's mind, but found the constant repetition of "I wanted to write, but I couldn't because I had to do this instead" pretty dull after a while. There are too many characters who are more like names that are occasionally dropped until suddenly the character comes to visit and the reader is told that this character is very important to the narrator, which is rather hard to believe, as they never appear again. I also had a hard time bringing myself to care what happened to the rather insipid narrator, Fuji (Murasaki), who seems to be forever complaining and making poor choices. I also found the narrator selfish despite her continual self-sacrifice. It seemed she managed to hang onto a lot of things that she found important, such as her character Genji and even her own reputation as a blender of incense, but, though she claims her daughter is her most precious treasure, the poor little girl is pretty much abandoned. I guess I might be biased on this because I have a tiny little daughter myself and I cannot understand how anything on Earth could induce me to treat her in such a fashion. It especially irked me that, despite seeing how unhealthy life at court was for women especially, the narrator purposefully raises her daughter up to be the ultimate courtier. And to top it off, she tricks the poor girl into thinking they will be together at last, only to run off to become a nun and leave her daughter to find her own way through the intrigues Murasaki herself apparently so despised.
Despite all of this, reading about Murasaki's changes to her "Shining Prince" as she becomes older, wiser, and of course sadder, and the way that these changes may have reflected her own life experiences was interesting. Seeing her grow from a writer of idealized romance to a shrewd observer of human nature with all of its failings makes the book worth finishing. The final story is fascinating and makes me want to read all of her work. Now to find translations in English...that's going to probably be a lot harder overall than dragging myself through this book was! ( )
  aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
Detailed depiction of life in 11th century Japan. With writing as an outlet for our main character - a woman we get glimpses of as she makes her way through life. She writes poetry, a diary and a huge novel and her actual writing flows in/around this historical novel about her. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A fictional account of the life of the writer of Tale of Genji. Good stuff.
Read Nov 2004 ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 30, 2015 |
The book was well written, and the descriptions of 11th century Japan were beautiful and very well researched, but I found the story as a whole incredibly boring. ( )
  Jspig | Aug 30, 2013 |
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For Michael
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I was pregnant with you when my mother died, but my condition was far from normal.
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One of the famous work of Japanese literature is the eleventh-century Tale of Genji by a woman of the imperial court. This title evokes Murasaki's close family, the men and women she loved, the vortex of high politics she was drawn into at court, and the way in which Murasaki came to write her masterpiece.

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