For those looking for the real story behind the fictionalized movie account of the 47 Ronin story, this is the definitive, fascinating account of this unforgettable tale of a band of samurai who defied the Emperor to avenge the disgrace and death of their master, and faced certain death as a result. It led to one of the bloodiest episodes in Japanese history, and in the process, created a new set of heroes in Japan.
In 1701, young Lord Asano is goaded into attacking a corrupt official at the Japanese Court. Although the wound Asano inflicts is minimal, the Emperor's punishment is harsh: Lord Asano is ordered to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. His lands are confiscated and his family is dishonored and exiled. His samurai retainers now become ronin, or masterless, and are dispersed.
These ronin are not trusted by their enemies and live under the watchful eyes of spies for months. They appear to adapt to their new circumstances by becoming tradesmen and teachers. But the ronin only seem to accept their fate. They are in fact making careful plans for revenge, biding their time until the moment to strike is right! Their deeds became Japan's most celebrated example of bravery, cunning, and loyalty in an age when samurai were heroes, and honor was worth dying for.
John Allyn's masterful retelling of 47 Ronin has long been considered the definitive version of these dramatic historical events.
©2012 Original material, Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Company, Inc. Recorded by arrangement with Tuttle Publishing. (P)2013 HighBridge Company
"Narrator David Shih expertly brings to life this ancient Japanese tale, based on real-life events. Through Shih's interpretation, the listener can hear the determination and even the occasional misgivings of the characters as they plot their revenge. Shih's performance of the noble warriors is flawless, as is his depiction of the women who work in the pleasure houses, but long for more." (AudioFile)
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
The publisher's notes suggest that in this book you can find the truth behind the classic Japanese story of the 47 Ronin (masterless samurai). That is only true if they were referring to the prologue which draws a clear line between the actual events and the fictionalized account presented by the author. This sets up an interesting tension which is clearly troubling for some people. The Ronin and their single minded leader are tainted by the clarifications in the prologue, so that there is a persistent "but" stalking the entire narrative of the book.
Nonetheless, the story is fascinating, deeply rooted in a culture which is profoundly alien for a Western reader in many ways. It develops slowly but very steadily, as successful revenge plots almost always do, and provides a pretty respectable emotional punch. I found more than enough tension along the way to keep me engaged, and the well drawn details of the daily life of the characters successfully drew me into that distant time and place in a very satisfying way. This is NOT an action adventure, however. Its appeal is in the gradual, carefully contained progress toward an explosive and appropriate ending. And, for me at least, in the nagging tension between the popular story and the uncomfortable facts which lie behind it. As a result, this is not a book for someone looking for authentic history, nor will it satisfy the listener who wants to be left breathless at the end of each chapter. If, on the other hand, you want to read it purely for the beauty of the classic story, I suggest you simply skip the prologue.
I had no problem with David Shih's narration, but other reviewers did. I suggest you check the sample reading before you invest a credit. It is taken from the prologue, but it is representative of the style and quality of the vocal work.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
I expected this story to be a classic tale worth listening to, and instead ended up listening to fictionalized characters worried about how much trouble they're in, and what to do about it while drowning their sorrows in all sorts of different ways.
I'll go watch the movie now.
This a great non-European/American classic, which makes it rare in it's own right. The background at the beginning, which outlines the known historical facts that make up the framework of the story, enhances the work that follows. The narrator was a bit flat, and perhaps could have changed cadence more emphatically as the story required, but on the whole his narration was adequate.
While a great classic, on which many movies have been based, it is not a convoluted tale. It follows the line of Samurai master is ordered to commit suicide, and loyal followers eventually extract revenge. The more interesting aspect of the tale concerns the personalities and deceptions leading to the revenge attack. It also paints an interesting description of Japanese culture 300 years ago.
So, give this audio book a listen, especially if you are not familiar with the story through movies. You should find it worth your time.
I really enjoyed the seamless way this narrator went from narration to character. It was so subtle that I felt myself pulled into the story.
Well done, fast paced adventure. But skip the introduction by Stephen Turnbull, a modernist seeking to apply 21st century political correctness to feudal Japan.
The dark forward is a bit of twisting of the facts and, despite how it is portrayed, is not terribly accurate in the context of the culture of the time. Having said that the main tale is exactly the story of honor, duty, and the epic tale that comes from it that you expect. Skip the forward and you'll love this.
Overall, this is a fairly entertaining story of revenge and honor. What I liked most was how I was able to learn about customs and the ways of Japan from the days of the Shoguns. However, that alone doesn't make for a great book (hence the average review score). On a different note, it can be difficult to keep all of the Japanese names straight, so listeners may find it a little hard to keep up with the specifics of the story, especially at the beginning. All in all though this is a decent book that helps itself by being short and not drawn out.
I'm a pragmatist & avid reader. I work full time+ so audiobooks = time to read. I'm an amateur author. I appreciate the art of writing.
I was not thrilled with the style of this book, was very text-book and lecture like rather than a story. This is an excellent tale and had/has so much room dramatization and riveting turns and twists of plot. And yet, the listen, though the narrator was quite good and did what he could with the text, was quite dry and uninteresting. Even though it wasn't very long I found myself having to "forge ahead" and "make" myself finish the story. It felt like sitting in a room listening to a news report the seemed like it would never end. Disappointing, could have been much better.
Far better than the movie which is based mostly on fantasy with just a few historical details. I have to confess my ignorance and say that I had never heard the story of the 47 Ronin. The ancient Japanese culture and the plot of the story made it a great read. You may or may not agree with the actions of the Ronin, or understand their culture, but there is a definite lesson in the historical story concerning honor and duty.
I do not want to create a spoiler, so I will just say that at the end of the story there is a tremendous display of duty. I do not fully understand the Japanese mindset of that day. However, that did not diminish the amazing sense of duty displayed by the Ronin in the end.
He is at times a little hard to understand - or at least he was for me.
Don't waste your time on the movie - listen to the book.
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