©2002 Takashi Matsuoka; (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.
"The book seizes you from start to finish." (The Washington Post)
Must like the main characters, be intelligently written and feel like I learned something at the end.
This book was good in the fact that it is well written and it does seem to take the reader away to a different time and place: Edo Japan. Unfortunately, if you can get past the quite unbelievable plot and characters, you won't be able to escape the one dimensional narration. The narrator sounds better suited to a PBS documentary and does not pronounce many of the simplest Japanese words correctly (e.g. Edo). This would be a better read than listen.
Takashi Matsouka has written a masterpiece about Japan in the mid 1800's, where though threatened, the Samari culture still thrives. It does so, even though the Japanese live under the threats posed by the guns and canons of the multi-national war ships at anchor in their bays and the internal hatreds dating back hundreds of years.
Grover Gardner's reading of it provides a seamless transition from character to character, while imbuing each with the rich individuality that the author had so perfectly shaped with his words. If the book can be faulted in any way, it would be by its ending. Not because the author failed in any way, but because it ended. I wanted it to go on forever. With Gardner's final words, came the fearful realization that I might never again find a book so beautifully written and dramatically read.
An enjoyable read, Lots of blood and guts, honor, and some pretty good characters. A bit of a slow start, but an excellent choice while you are waiting for the third book in The Otori Trilogy. Not the same level as Across the Nightingale Floor, but close.
This book gets a five star because it is good. Not the best book in the world that you listen to 500 times, but it is really a good book. I enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to the next in the series. I found the clash of the Japanese and American cultures for the first time to be funny and very realistic - my husband is Japanese and I am American, and many of the observations were only too true. Also, the characters were, for the most part, ones you could be swept away with and care about. Good narration only adds to the book.
First the bad news...
The combination of Japanese names and jumping between various sub-plots, times and cultures can be challenging in an audio book. I imagine that this would be less disruptive in the written form.
I found it worth the effort. Besides being entertaining, I absorbed a bit of Japanese history in spite of my general impatience with anything vaguely educational. It was somewhat of a cross between "Shogun" and the "Otori Trilogy". The ending was somewhat disappointing in that it seemed to resolve little and largely attempt to sell the next book of the series. To that extent, it worked - I'm anxious for the unabridged version of "Autumn Bridge"
I really liked this book, its characters, and its subject matter. I saw one review that compared it to Lian Hearn's books. The topics are similar but the style, plot, tone and overall feeling are all very different. That comparison doesn't seem justified or accurate. I think this is an enjoyable book and very fascinating in its own way. I recommend it.
an enjoyable story. captivating characters. i found the end to be a little weak but my real disappointment was the westernization of japanes words, especially "samurai". that really made the japanese characters unbelievable. it would have been great if only the western characters pronounced it that way. but, the story is imaginative and entertaining and i look foward to his next book.
I listen to books on tape while driving 1.5 hours each way to work. This is probably the most enjoyable book I have read all year.
Grover Gardner is probably one of my favorite narrators of all time so I was delighted to see that he had narrated this. A wonderful performance as always, in my opinion.
With regards to the book, the comparisons with Shogun are apt in ways, even if this feels much more modern (and shall we say concise) but a more appropriate comparison might be Cavell's own follow up to Shogun, Gaijin, which, I'm afraid to say, is in places absolutely wretched, filled with mostly unlikable characters, is glacial in pace, and too often is positively repellant. Sparrow in turn feels much more brisk and interesting, with characters that are mostly likable but if not are at least interesting. It feels less like pure historical fiction than Shogun and Gaijin, perhaps, but the trade off in my opinion doesn't stop Sparrows from being vastly more enjoyable on the whole.
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