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The Teahouse Fire | [Ellis Avery]

The Teahouse Fire

The fates of two women, one American, one Japanese, become entwined in this sweeping novel of 19th century Japan on the cusp of radical change and Westernization. The Japanese tea ceremony, steeped in ritual, is at the heart of this story of an American girl adopted by Kyoto's most important tea master and raised as attendant and surrogate younger sister to his privileged daughter, Yukako.
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Publisher's Summary

The fates of two women, one American, one Japanese, become entwined in this sweeping novel of 19th century Japan on the cusp of radical change and Westernization.

The Japanese tea ceremony, steeped in ritual, is at the heart of this story of an American girl adopted by Kyoto's most important tea master and raised as attendant and surrogate younger sister to his privileged daughter, Yukako.

Pasts shrouded in secrets and mysterious traditions rocked by modernization make The Teahouse Fire a compelling and provocative story, lush in details and epic in scope.

©2006 Ellis Avery. All rights reserved; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Winner, Solo Narration-Female, 2008

"Author Lee Smith's skill at capturing women's voices is a kind of literary music stemming from our ever-evolving American family life." (Midwest Book Review)
"Highly recommended." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (154 )
5 star
 (49)
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3.6 (43 )
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4.1 (41 )
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2 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Pamela San Antonio, TX, USA 04-18-07
    Pamela San Antonio, TX, USA 04-18-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    56
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    10
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    Overall
    "Captivating"

    This is one of those stories that words cannot define. From the literary excellence to the narration, the novel will capture the listener from beginning to end. It taps on all the emotions one would expect from an exceptional masterpiece while embracing the listener in the lives of its fabulous characters. Despite its fiction story line, the writing consistently flows in harmony with Asian history and culture and is written in such a way that gives credibility to the entire novel. Thank you Audible.com for making this outstanding selection available.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angelica Redmond, OR, United States 02-28-07
    Angelica Redmond, OR, United States 02-28-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
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    3
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Magical Cultural Experience"

    This story is rich with insight into the Japanese culture from the eyes of a young foreign girl. It is a magical story and the narrator does a wonderful job.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toni L. Campbell 08-06-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
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    62
    6
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    Overall
    "Unexpected and Strong"

    I really enjoyed this book. Usually when I download from audible I read the amazon reviews but not this time as I was in a hurry. The details about life in Japan fascinated me as did the complexities of the characters. Still, I was utterly caught off-guard by the love story. I didn't expect it and was happily surprised that this book doesn't follow a "Cinderella" format. The narrator's voice and characterizations were very pleasing and appropriate. I did struggle at first with this grandmotherly-sounding person talking so vividly about sex but my apprehensions didn't last long. I wouldn't call this book "lovely" but it was - strong.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca brentwood, CA, United States 03-26-09
    Rebecca brentwood, CA, United States 03-26-09 Member Since 2007

    Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Frustrating Heroine"

    I've been thinking that books that are subtler/character studies aren't always the best for the audio format, and if the books are also immersed in foreign culture, naming conventions that are unfamiliar...perhaps better read. So "TeaHouse Fire" falls into that category, it is a book I think better read unless the listener is familiar enough with Japanese to get a grip on who's who in a book with LOTS of characters. I have to admit that more than once when a character reappeared I wasn't quite sure who he/she was.

    But this is simply my observation regarding best format to read this book in. My complaint about the book at large is that the main character was so hard to bond with -- she was frustrating. She's a child when she inhabits her situation, a caucasian (mistaken for an ugly Japanese or perhaps a mixed race child from the Russian border) who ends up servant girl, adopted by a famous Tea family in 1800's Japan. So of course children have relatively little power to influence such a situation, but she just doesn't have enough spunk -- even meditative spunk -- to make her so very interesting. I love the concept, and I like that as she learns Japanese language and culture very slowly things begin to make sense to her, but she needed more oomph to make her sympathetic. I wondered a bit if the drollness of the readers' voice added to my frustration with her. The narrator is not bad, but doesn't charge the heroine with a special feeling that makes her more lovable, sympathetic or...comprehensible. So...I'd read rather than listen and even at that ended the book wishing for a more lively heroine.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Chicago, IL, USA 05-14-07
    Barbara Chicago, IL, USA 05-14-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    7
    2
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    "Good Story"

    I enjoyed this story very much. The subject of women loving women is treated with a great deal of empathy. It is the kind of story, perhaps like Memoirs of a Geisha that is very beliveable and worth listening to again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Doral, FL, USA 04-01-09
    Hal Doral, FL, USA 04-01-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    104
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    "Only girl talk"

    Women interest me, but listening to the smalltalk of two young women, and nothing else, was boring.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Waynesfield, OH, USA 05-23-08
    Lisa Waynesfield, OH, USA 05-23-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    3
    1
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    "Good but slow!"

    A good "listen" however the story line is slow. I have yet to figure out why it is included in a lesbian search. I suppose because it have one small lesbian encounter by the main character. It has taken me 4 months to listen to this book. If I was reading it I probably would have put it down a long time ago!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    little grandma Burleson, TX United States 02-27-08
    little grandma Burleson, TX United States 02-27-08 Member Since 2004

    young at heart grandma

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    248
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    "What a great book!"

    This book is rich with detail of life in the late 1800's in Japan. I was transfixed by the detail of the clothing, culture, and tradition of a country that is magical. I lived in Japan in 1947-49 and 1951-53 as a child. This book helped me to visualize life in another time period. I went to the computer often to get more information about the lifestyle of the Japanese people. It is fascinating.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 04-18-13
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 04-18-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thoughtful, Intelligent, A Window to Another Time"
    If you could sum up The Teahouse Fire in three words, what would they be?

    Very very good


    What other book might you compare The Teahouse Fire to and why?

    The Last Nude, another book by Ellis Avery. Like The Last Nude, Avery abandons her narrator in a strange land and lets the narrator see her new world through foreign eyes. What I really enjoy about both works is the strong sense of time and place AND the complex characters. No one is entirely good or entirely evil. Instead, Avery creates a world with flawed, but not unsympathetic people.


    Which character – as performed by Barbara Caruso – was your favorite?

    Yukako. That said, Caruso is one of those gifted narrators who makes each character have a distinct voice. I knew who was speaking without being told.


    If you could rename The Teahouse Fire, what would you call it?

    Nothing. The title fits the book perfectly.


    Any additional comments?

    Although not perfect, this is a very, very good story about an extremely interesting time in Japanese history - when the west invaded Japan. I've read and seen many stories about this time written by Japanese authors through a Japanese character's eyes. It was an interesting twist to see this moment in history described through a foreigner's eyes. Like other reviewers have pointed out, the narrator is a bit frustrating because she does little. Rather, she observes and analyzes what others do around her. Also, the story does droop in places. That said, the narrator makes very astute observations and the people she is around are very interesting. Whenever the story started to sag, it quickly reeled me back in. Aside from the strong sense of time and place, I really appreciate how well Avery (the author) understands human nature. Nothing in the story is cliche. Her characters are living, breathing, flawed individuals who do, not do what is expected of them, but rather what they want to do. Because of that, the story has some very surprising twists. The narrator did not end up where I expected her to be.Although the book felt VERY complete, I like how unanswered fragments are left behind, which is very much like real life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 09-07-10
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 09-07-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    187
    ratings
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    343
    89
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    12
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    Overall
    "Excellent"

    I enjoyed this book and it was a good history of Japan in the 1900s. It had a good ending and the characters were engaging. Excellent reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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