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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `We need to look to the future, not back at the past.', 13 July 2010
This review is from: The Courtesan and the Samurai (Hardcover)
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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Location: ACT, Australia

Top Reviewer Ranking: 381