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Read-a-long Discussion Post #2 – The Storyteller & His Three Daughters by Lian Hearn

StorytellerHello 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.

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Read-a-long Discussion Post #1 – The Storyteller & His Three Daughters by Lian Hearn

Storyteller

Anyone not taking part in the read-a-long skim to the bottom of the post to enter to win 1 of 5 copies

Hello everyone and welcome to the first discussion post for The Storyteller & His Three Daughters by Lian Hearn. Before you read this post or comment please make sure you’ve read the first section of the book, from pages 1-131 to avoid being spoiled for anything!

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The setting of the book is late 1800s Japan which is something I’m not very familiar with and is not very well represented in my reading. It seems that it was a bit of a time of turmoil for Japan with the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the rise of the Meiji Restoration which opened Japan up to trade with Europe. Japan wanted to be a superpower in world affairs and there was some thought that like other world superpowers such as Britain, France etc, they should also have colonies and for this they seemed to be eyeing off their neighbouring Korea. I found the history incorporated into the story quite interesting, especially seeing as it was done in a way that seemed quite subtle and not like it was deliberately educating the reader. Is anyone else as unfamiliar with the setting as me and if so, did you feel that the book did an adequate job of helping to set it for you? Do you like the style of the writing and the way that the story is unfolding?

The story centers around Sei, a storyteller in his fifties who is experiencing a slight decline in his career given that newer and younger storytellers are on the block, working in European fables and myths, making their work more exciting than Sei’s more traditional stories. He has three daughters all of whom he has arranged marriages for but two of the marriages break down in the first section of the book which means that he has two of his daughters come home to live. He is in some debt but an answer to his financial problems might’ve come in an offer from a charismatic man only Sei is unsure whether or not to accept or decline only to find out that the decision has been made for him – and now he must fulfill his part of the bargain. He looks to the comings and goings of his neighbours for inspiration for new stories and through them he discovers a Korean actor. These relationships that he observes become the basis for a new story and one of the lodgers at his neighbours house introduces him to French novels and they become the basis for several more.

A recurring interest in the novel so far is “nanshoku” or “man love” which seems to be culturally ingrained in Japan during the time of the warriors and is described as “more admirable than falling in love with a woman”. It ran to all facets of society before it was basically outlawed. Sei himself is familiar with it although claims to have had no real personal experience. However he becomes fascinated with several male-male relationships around him revolving around the young Korean actor Kyu and he becomes very invested in what is happening between all of the players for what he thinks will be his greatest story yet.

I found the role of women interesting – although Sei loves his daughters, he refers to his youngest daughter as their “third disappointment” and it’s clear that he mourns the loss of his only son, who died as a small child, very deeply. He hasn’t been able to speak of his son and he even avoids his two grandchildren at times because they remind him. Several of the female characters seem to breaking through the traditional molds: Michi, who lodges with Sei’s landlord and helps with meals and housework and is stated as being one of only 3 or 4 female medical students in the country. Another is Sei’s middle daughter who has left her wealthy but domineering husband and wishes to carve out a name for herself as a writer. Most other women within the story seem to fulfill traditional roles of homemaking and have little to do outside of the home.

Sei is described as cold and prideful and ignorant to his wife’s desires – do you agree or disagree with this description of him? What sort of man do you think him to be and do you think he knew what was really happening in the discussion and secret meeting with Yamagishi Takayuki? I find the idea of a storyteller really fabulous – more intimate than the theatre and more personal. I really enjoyed the stories that Sei performed near the end of this section and look forward to the ones he’s working on – although I do have a bit of an ominous feeling about what might happen!

I hope you all are enjoying this read so far and have lots to say about it in the comments and we’ll be back here next week for the second part of the discussion and wrap up.

Giveaway!

Want to win a copy of The Storyteller & His Three Daughters by Lian Hearn courtesy of Hachette Australia? Simply fill in the form below. Australian residents only.

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Read-A-Long Call Out – The Storyteller And His Three Daughters by Lian Hearn

StorytellerHello everyone!

It’s been a little while since we’ve done one of these but the lovely people at Hachette AU have asked me to host another read-a-long, this time featuring Lian Hearn’s forthcoming book, The Storyteller And His Three Daughters. For anyone who doesn’t know what these are about – if you’re interested in participating, you get a copy of the book and we generally read in several sections. Each week I make a post about the events in the relevant section and we all get together for a bit of a discussion. They’re always a lot of fun and you get a lot of different perspectives and opinions, which always helps broaden the experience.

For those who are interested….here’s a little more about the book (courtesy of the Hachette AU website):

From the internationally bestselling author of the Tales of the Otori, comes a tale of families, love, intrigue and betrayal.

TOKYO 1884

Sei has devoted his life to storytelling, captivating audiences with his tales. But now he is starting to wonder if the new world has left him behind.

Just when he thinks he will never write again, his own life and the lives of the people around him begin to spiral out of control providing the inspiration for the greatest story he has ever told. A story of love, jealousy, intrigue, and betrayal.

Set against the background of Japan’s first incursions into Korea, Sei offers a wise and witty reflection on the nature of storytelling, its perils and delights, its lies and, ultimately, its truth.

Looking forward to this – Japan in the 1800’s is not a time I’ve read all that much about.

Those who have participated before should be getting an email soon about this one. If you think this is something you’d like to be involved in, let me know! Send me an email at 1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com by Tuesday 17th September. You must have a blog and you must be an Australian resident, due to the read-a-long being sponsored by the Aussie publisher. Let me know your blog link and your address and I’ll pass the details on so you can receive your copy of the book. Books are being posted out next week, so get in quick!

 

 

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Lifesaving For Beginners – Ciara Geraghty Read-a-long Discussion Pt 3 & Wrap Up

Lifesaving For BeginnersHello everyone and welcome to the final part of the discussion for Lifesaving For Beginners by Ciara Geraghty. Reactions to this book have been mostly positive it seems, with a few who haven’t enjoyed it as much as others. I was enjoying the book so much that after I finished Part 2, I wrote the post right away and then finished it that night. I had to know what happened. Once again, please be aware that if you’re not finished, there will be ***SPOILERS***

If last week was about Denial and the question of Doing The Right Thing, then it seems that this week is about Recognition and Redemption. Kat has an almighty scare when her younger brother Edward, who is disabled, is admitted to hospital with an acute arrythmia, which was mostly likely the result of the congenital heart condition. He has surgery and is fitted with a pacemaker and makes a good recovery but Kat spends most of the time Ed is in surgery, making “bargains” for his recovery, although she won’t admit to whom she is bargaining with. Perhaps she doesn’t really know or she doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that she does know. When Kat is told that Ed’s procedure went well, she has a panic attack. For Kat, it’s like the dam has burst and in a second she realises and accepts the mistakes she has made and where she has gone wrong. She takes responsibility for Thomas, for Faith, for a lot of things.

She confesses to her editor that she hasn’t written the next novel, she tells her family that she is Killian Kobain and she has someone organise a press conference so she can tell the world the same. She also admits to having adopted out a baby when a teenager, thereby beating the blackmailer to the punch and taking back the power they previously had over her. While the press is besieging her parents home, Kat makes plans to go and finally see Faith. Faith doesn’t make it easy for her but the end of the book, which takes place a little later shows that they’ve manage to forge some relationship.

Were you satisfied with the ending? If not, why?

What do you think Milo’s role in the story was? Do you think that without him, Kat and Faith would have been able to connect?

Was Kat redeemed as a character? Did you like her/identify more with her at the end of the novel than you did at the beginning? Do you think she evolved in a believable way?

For those that enjoyed this novel, if you haven’t before, will you be reading any of Ciara Geraghty’s backlist/her future novels? Has this read-a-long introduced you to a new sort of book and a new novelist that you might wish to read more of?

I’d like to thank everyone that took part again here with me, I do enjoy reading books with other people and hearing your thoughts and opinions. We all see things in many different ways and I find other people’s perspective interesting. It can be hard, so I do appreciate those that take the time to comment on my discussion posts or post their thoughts on their own blogs each week and keep things going. Thanks also to the fab team at Hachette AU who put the group together again and provided us with our books.

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Lifesaving For Beginners – Ciara Geraghty Read-a-long Discussion Pt 2

Lifesaving For BeginnersHello everyone and welcome to the second part of our discussion. Thank you to all who took the time to drop by last week and comment and leave their thoughts and contribute to the discussion. Again, this post will contain ***SPOILERS*** up to page 296.

Part 2 revealed what a lot had already suspected: Kat is Faith’s birth mother. Pregnant at 15, she didn’t even realise until she was into her 7th month. I hear about these people but in the 2 times I’ve been pregnant I’ve looked like a person with a beach ball wedged up my top and both my babies have kicked the living bejeesus out of me. So I’m never going to have one of those pregnancies that takes me by surprise with a mere 6-8wks to go! Kat’s mother didn’t find out until she was in labour and she made the decision that Kat should give the baby up for adoption. She felt it was the best thing to do.

Faith, having gotten the address of her birth mother (via Milo, in the first section of the book) took herself off to Ireland, Milo in tow to attempt to meet the woman who gave birth to her. This didn’t go so well, as Kat refused to turn up to her parent’s place where Faith was waiting.

In other news, Thomas learned that Kat had a baby and Kat learned that Thomas is getting married. And someone is blackmailing Kat with the knowledge that she is the author of the Declan Darker series.

Two things stood out at me reading this section. They were DENIAL and DOING THE RIGHT THING. It seems that Kat lives a life of denial – she never thinks of the baby she gave birth to (she didn’t even know if it was a boy or girl, she never saw it, never held it, never wanted to). She doesn’t want to deal with Faith’s appearance in her life now – she could have gone around to her parent’s and used that as a way to meet her in the company of others, which may have made it easier. But instead she ran away and that seems to be what Kat is doing these days. She’s holing up in her apartment, drinking too much wine, eating too much take out, unplugging the phone, not working on her novel. She even applies this form of denial to her relationships – she refuses to see how she cares for Thomas, or acknowledge it. Perhaps if she did, it would put her in a position where she would need to move forward, perhaps get married, or entertain the idea of children… and all of that would bring about memories Kat has kept firmly locked away.

Likewise there’s several mentions of doing the right thing – Kat’s mother tells her that she thought adoption was the right thing at the time, but now all of these years later, she’s not sure that it was. Faith’s aunt tells her that her adoptive parents didn’t tell her that she was adopted because that’s what they felt was right… they didn’t want her to feel any differently from the twins, or from Milo.

I think that Kat’s mother is a large part of the way Kat is, especially once I saw the way in which her parents interacted. I also think that never speaking of it has had severe repercussions.

A few questions:

Do you agree/disagree that Kat is severely in denial about many things? Do you think this contributes to the fanatical way in which she guards her privacy?

Did her mother do the right thing in arranging an adoption? Was it the right thing to never talk about it, ever?

Did Faith’s parents do the right thing in not telling her that she was adopted?

Who do you think Kat’s blackmailer is?

Thanks everyone and I’ll see you back here next week to wrap it all up!

 

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Book-Blogger Read-A-Long Callout – Lifesaving For Beginners, by Ciara Geraghty

Lifesaving For BeginnersReaders of my blog might remember that last year, I hosted a couple of book-blogger read-a-longs where we read books to a schedule and discussed them as a group. Soon I’ll be hosting another one of the forthcoming Lifesaving For Beginners by Ciara Geraghty to be published in Australia by Hachette. The synopsis:

An accident on the motorway. One woman dies. One woman lives. Nothing will ever be the same again. Kat Kavanagh works in Dublin as a technical writer. She has no children and is fond of her man-friend, Thomas. She never thinks about what happened when she was fifteen. That’s Kat’s story. None of it is true. Milo is ten and lives in Brighton. He’s pretty busy trying to keep things together. Lots of stuff is still the same. Like school. Lifesaving class. Library duty with Carla. Cutting worms in two with his best friend Damo. But some things are different. Like his mother not being around anymore. And his sister Faith, looking after him. Then Faith finds some of her mother’s old papers and discovers a secret she was never meant to know. Suddenly everything changes. As Milo struggles to come to terms with what has happened to his family, Faith is determined to uncover the truth. Kat thinks the truth is overrated. But you can only run so far before your past catches up with you …

Some of you may have already received an email inviting you along to take part in this but if you haven’t (or if you didn’t take part in the others but would like to take part in this one) then please email me with: your name, your address where you’d like the book to be sent and a link to your blog to 1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com and I will pass your information along to the contact at the publisher. As this is a publisher sponsored read-a-long, you must live in Australia.

If this is something you’d like to be a part of, please get in contact by next Thursday 10th January to allow plenty of time to receive your copy before the read-a-long starts. They’re lots of fun and always result in plenty of good discussion so don’t be shy!

 

 

 

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