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Interesting, well-written, attractively formatted, well bound & keenly priced - but second half slower,
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This review is from: The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi (Hardcover)
I found the Japanese names, characters and little back stories a little hard to take in initially but it really didn't matter, the pace is quite brisk for the first part and trying to fathom out this Japanese folk hero for the first time made this an intriguing read. Is it all true? Is it the whole truth? Has it been exaggerated and/or modified for the sake of a good story over the years? The author does a fine job of referencing all of his sources and does an excellent job of tersely assessing and resolving conflicting accounts from different sources (perhaps helped by Japanese scholars who have trodden this path before?).
The book is relatively small and fast paced, the large, clear fonts help even my tired old eyes. The book is attractively laid out and includes a couple of welcome and well considered maps and a few well chosen images of paintings by Miyamoto Musashi (or Nitin - his artist name) to supplement the text. The book is beautifully bound in a tasteful hard cover. There is a quality/Japanese influence/feel to the book.
What to make of Miyamoto Musashi though: the spoilt son of a samurai; violent young killer thug; highly skilled, intuitive, competitive & lethal swordsman; loner; friend of the powerful & famous; deep Zen martial artist; accomplished painter/sculptor/poet/warrior; a legend in his own lifetime and for hundreds of years since. Perhaps all these things and more. He is Japan's most famous swordsman, yet he often used a bokken (a wooden training sword) rather than a steel sword (e.g. katana) as his primary weapon - killing with it sometimes. A more complex character/history than I expected but perhaps a product (albeit an exceptional example) of his time & place.
However, I found my interest started to wane in the second half, when the author kept re-visiting scenes & characters from the first half. It felt like the author had limited information (as this books seeks to distinguish the real man from the legend, that is probably the case) and was trying to tie up all the loose ends, which largely had little interest for me. Rather like Evelyn Waugh's story "Brideshead Revisited", the first half is considerably more interesting than the second.