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Samurai Paperback – 3 Feb 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593065050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593065051
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,633,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN MAN

"The Lion's Share", just published on Kindle, is a new edition of a thriller written years ago about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Since writing the original, I have focused mainly on non-fiction, exploring interests in Central Asia and turning-points in written communication. I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's also probably to do with escaping a secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, "Alpha Beta" (on the alphabet) and "The Gutenberg Revolution" (on printing), both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on access to Iraq. (There's a fourth revolution, the Internet, about which many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 with a trip to the Gobi. "Gobi: Tracking the Desert" was the first book on the region since those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrew in the 1920's. As anyone quickly discovers in Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. The result was "Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection," now in 20 languages, and (from 2011) in a new, revised edition. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. "Attila the Hun" and "Kublai Khan" followed.

Another main theme in Mongol history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. "The Terracotta Army" was followed by "The Great Wall". "The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan" (combining history and modern leadership theory) and "Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East" pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For "Samurai: The Last Warrior", I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real Last Samurai, published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a multi-talented, strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

Product Description

Review

slashes through the thicket of 19th-century Japanese politics with the keenness of a samurai's tempered steel blade --Daily Express --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The extraordinary story of the warrior Saigo Takamori, whose death marked the end of the Samurai era.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Kwan on 8 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Ostensibly this book is about Saigo Takamori, the samurai caste and his role in the events leading up to the Meiji Restoration and the modernization of Japan. Those familiar with John Man will be well aware of his many books on the Mongols, as well his style of popular history, where he weaves in his travel anecdotes into the story.

It is a little surprising to me why he would write about Japan, a country which he seems to know little about and whose language he does not speak, after his previous focus on the Mongols and China. The writing is less sure than his other books, and it is obvious he leans heavily on his translator Michiko in the book, as well as a wealth of secondary sources. Another mystery is why he would choose to write this book only a few years after the definitive biography of Saigo in English by Mark Ravina, whom he quotes liberally from.

The first quarter to a third of the book seems to be the usual foreigner's fare about Japan, comparisons of the Samurai to the Jedi in Star Wars, to other honor systems, Geishas' blackened teeth, titillation about the homosexual relationships between Samurai and honor systems. And because he is not able to access primary sources in Japanese he is always writing through the experiences of foreigners in Japan and their viewpoint. This may have been written in order to make the book more interesting to a larger audience, as is the cover design.

However he becomes more surefooted as he starts to delve into Saigo's life and has presented an easily digestible version of the events that led to the Meiji restoration and makes a nice introduction to that important period for those who are daunted by more academic texts (such as Donald Richie's Emperor Meiji or Marius Hansen's History of Modern Japan).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 30 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
John Man is a factual author with a gift. He can take any subject matter, explore it thoroughly and present his research to the reader in such a way that they have very good recall in regard to the information even months later. You would not believe how many quiz questions John has helped me answer.

Here, in his latest book, is the chance to get to know and understand the warriors of Japan, the Samurai whose ideals, beliefs and honour system have been idealised by the books chief subject, Saigo Takamori. Beautifully detailed, this book is perhaps one of the most definitive titles by a western author and when backed by John's literal voice to add life to the story you know it's a book that will fascinate readers for a long time to come. Definitely a book that I'd recommend especially to authors who seek to get inside the mind of perhaps one of the most renowned warriors of all time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Johanus Parr reviewer on 27 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has visited most of the Kyushu sites mentioned, I must say this is a great book for feeling you missed a whole lot. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori by Mark Ravina (2005) is a superb read and he really gets into the Japanese documentation and history. Man does not rival him there. But where Man is excellent is that everyting is sourced and party of the tale. In order to visit and meet these people Man must already have been deep in Saigo studies. However he never reaches the stage where he makes an essay out of what Saigo did. He makes the process and the campaigns clear, and leaves the sources- many purely conversational- to argue it out.

We get enough Samurai here that we can read this alone, but not too much of either Samurai or Saigo that I hope anyone will be full up. As academia it may only be 3 stars as a solid gold academic source, but it shows all the methodology of the debates to be had. For this and for the general reader and as a guide to your own visitations excellent it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Taka on 7 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover
The last photograph page is inaccurately captioned: Toshiro Mifune did not play the leader of the Seven Samurai, this role was played by Takeshi Shimura. The photo shows Mifune as the character he played in Yojimbo and Sanjuro.
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By Mr. S. Lombardo on 12 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant book and a great read also came very quick thank you ******
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