Hello everyone and welcome to the second and final part of the discussion. Thank you to everyone who left a comment last week. For those who aren’t reading along and haven’t entered the giveaway yet, do pop down to the bottom of the post and fill in the form if you’d like the chance to win a copy of this one. The first discussion post is here.
I have to admit, it was a long time between me reading the first section of this book and the second. Usually I read the book in its entirety first and then in each section for the relevant discussion post but a lot has happened recently and I wasn’t able to do that this time. I wasn’t sure how I’d go picking it up again, whether or not I’d get a bit confused with the Japanese names and forget who was who but I transitioned back into the story very well.
In general terms, everyone seemed to be enjoying the book in the first part and I hope that carried over to the second half of the book. I feel that even though the real tone of Sei’s storytelling didn’t change, the book certainly contained a lot more happening in the latter half. Sei is shut down by the police after telling his story about the Nose and he is also beaten, presumably by Takayuki’s thugs. Each of the characters move forward in their own way, usually experiencing some form of dramatic event or moment followed by an ephiphany and then a resolution to each of their stories. Several characters, such as Michi have more than one resolution – firstly her life with Takayuki and then late in the book when she is presumably reunited with Satoshi. Sei finishes his ‘long story’ about the complicated affair between Takayuki, Michi, Kyu and Satoshi and it is a rousing success and is even transcribed into a written novel and sold successfully. He manages to also rectify the situations with his daughters although he is more likely a bystander in these events than someone who is proactive, or the cause of the resolutions.
Now that you’ve finished the book, how do you feel about Sei and his actions? Did you find him an honourable man and an enjoyable narrator? For me personally, I liked him a lot, especially the way in which he came to conclusions about things like his wife, whom earlier in the book he suspected of having an affair with or wanting to, with his manager. He comes to realise that everything she does concerning the manager, she does for him. Everything he does for Satoshi and Michi speaks of honour and kindness to me – he especially goes above and beyond for Satoshi, trying to visit him in prison and later, begging Takayuki to spare his life. It must’ve been quite difficult to do that, knowing that he could possibly attract even more negative attention by attempting to play his hand with the sword. He is mildly tolerant of his daughters’ antics, although in a sort of distant way but I feel as though he does become a little more invested in their happiness later on. He is for example, not too bothered by Teru’s resolution even though it is somewhat unconventional.
The book is actually quite political although this is hidden at times in conversations and stories. It’s about a time when Japan was still quite heavily moderated, particularly in the press. I can imagine that an Englishman like Jack, who mentioned English democracy in one of his stories, must’ve caused quite a stir. I can’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t have thought there’d be a large number of Europeans in Japan at this time, do you think his marriage to Shigure might’ve caused any repercussions or opinions not mentioned in the story? Or is it quite possible that the tolerant attitudes towards things like man love and even Teru’s situation with her husband and their lover, might extend to an interracial marriage?
Most participants mentioned the modern language last week and the fact that it didn’t always read like it was the diary of a Japanese man in his 50s in 1884ish Japan. However I think that the way in which it is written is a good way to tell the story – it’s extremely readable with the author never bogging the reader down in too much Japan/Korea, breaking that up with Sei’s daughters and his other, more lighthearted stories that he’s working on. The conversations also helped – the simple way in which they were laid out with no bogging down of “he said” and “she said” etc. It reads like someone trying to transcribe their conversations authentically.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this one. It was something very different to the books I am usually drawn to and I’m glad I read it. It did teach me a little about a country and time I don’t know much about and I wouldn’t mind further investigating this author and her other works as well as books set in Japan before/around the turn of the 20th century.
I hope you all enjoyed it as well and thanks once again for taking the time to participate and share your views. Thanks also must go out to the wonderful people at Hachette AU who provide our books and those which I am lucky enough to give away here on the blog.
For me, this one is an 8/10.
Enter here for the giveaway! AU residents only. Winners drawn next Wednesday 30th October and notified by email.