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29
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Courtesan and the Samurai: Historical Romance
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 April 2010
With descriptive flair ("women in dresses shaped like temple bells", for example, and a villain whose head is "like a tangerine balanced on top of a pumpkin-sized rice cake") Lesley Downer mines a rich seam of historical romance in this tale of love lost and found amid the social and military upheaval of late nineteenth-century Japan. The period lends itself to all sort of quirky insights on what happens when ancient meets modern (a samurai sword, for example, splits a bullet in half) as the author explores a strange world that mixed chivalry with commerce and which, even more strangely, survived in Japan right into the twentieth century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2012
This is in a way the "same world" as in The Last Concubine. But it's not, also. It's recognizably Japan of the late 1860s and the political realities are similar to the same period in the first novel. But this is a different part of that world, and the characters have intense, serious challenges and preoccupations that are all their own and miles and miles away from the other harsh realities faced by the characters in the other book. Lesley Downer's skill at presenting individual personalities and situations is immense. Deft brushstrokes create each moment of a vivid and fascinating existence, with its dangers, its sensations, its unknown possibilities. I love the way she drops me into situations; I never know what's coming next. I can feel the stinging winds, I feel the fear of impending battle, I am there with the warriors in the desperate situation. I am living with these people. It's an absorbing adventure thriller. It's a picture of a country in the turmoil of rapid upheaval, an ancient culture shaken beyond its roots. It is romantic, yes. (I was happy to see a character from the first book turn up in this one, and hope to meet that person again now that I've started the third novel. I won't say who it is, so you'll have the pleasure of experiencing it yourself.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This novel is set in 1868/69, during the period of civil war (known as the Meiji Restoration) between the shogunate forces (the northerners) and the imperial Japanese forces (the southerners).

The novel's protagonist, Hana, is seventeen when her husband, a commander in the Northern Alliance, leaves her to go to war. Hana is the daughter of a samurai, and her duty as a samurai wife is clear. The northerners are losing, and when the southerners attack her home and she is unable to defend it she flees for her life across the shattered city of Edo (later renamed Tokyo). Hana is first helped, and then sold, by a procuress to become a courtesan in the five streets of the Yoshiwara.

Yozo Tajima returns to Japan after four years in the West, just in time to find the world he left behind in the last throes of destruction. He is captured while travelling north to rejoin his comrades, but escapes and makes his way to the Yoshiwara. Here he meets Hana, and they fall in love. They are, it appears, fated to be together but there are certain obstacles to overcome first.

I enjoyed this novel, more for the rich historical detail than the actual love story between Yozo and Hana. I know little about this period of Japanese history and found this aspect of the novel quite absorbing. The details of the lives of courtesans in Yoshiwara were intriguing, as was Yozo's story as one of a number of Japanese who spent time in the west.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2011
I would highly recommend this title as well as Lesley Downer's other fictional story 'The Last Concubine'

What I love about Downer's novels is the basis they have in History. Well research and beautifully presented in spell binding text that literally transports you to an era that time forgot. This particular story begins in two strands that Downer expertly intertwines. It has violence, friendship, loss, betrayal, romance and enough twists to keep you hooked.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2012
After reading and enjoying The Last Concubine I was hoping that this book would be as good and I wasn't disappointed. Brilliant descriptions, I felt great empathy with the characters. Difficult to put down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2012
This a hugely entertaining book that has been thoroughly researched and gives a deeper insight into the truth of the civil war that divided Japan during the Meiji Restoration. It is a real page turner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2011
If you like samurai books, then this is the book for you. Good, gripping action, fascinating piece of history.
Delivery was quick and I was very pleased with Amazon.
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on 25 March 2015
loved it loved it loved it Hana was such a naïve person until she had to fight for her future, then she became strong, resilient and in control
Yuzo [not sure how to pronounce this name] was everything a friend, lover and warrior should be
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on 4 May 2010
Not a complete WOW but a very good read that transports you off to a different world very easily. So well researched which shines through in this novel. Very enjoyable and I would recommend (although the ending is predictable).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2010
This book is book is perfect for all types of readers. It has battles, love story, true story and politics. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in 4 days.
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