The Samurai’s Garden

Thoughts   The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, St. Martin’s Griffin 1994, 211 pages.

FIRST SENTENCE:  “I wanted to find my own way this morning so I persuaded my father to let me travel alone from his apartment in Kobe to my grandfather’s beach house in Tarumi.”

MOTIVATION for READING:   My friend Holly enthusiastically recommended this and since it is set in Japan, I selected it for the Asia component of my Global Reading Challenge.     And since I gave up on my original choice for Place in the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge, I’m substituting this one.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   A young Chinese man is sent to the family’s vacation home to recuperate from an illness.   It is the eve of World War II;  Japan is invading China, and our protagonist learns about life and relationships from the wise caretaker of the house.

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD:    In quiet beautiful prose, we are taken on a slow journey as we learn along with Stephen about family and friendship, goals and dreams, duty and love.   The descriptions are vivid and create a serene sense of place and time amid the tragedies of war, disease and misunderstandings.     Early on, I was struck by a few sentences that explained more than necessary and a few that lacked but this is very minor compared to how lush the writing was most of the time.

FINAL THOUGHTS:    I enjoyed this slowly unfolding novel (when I told myself to not be impatient for something big to happen.)    It’s richness is not in the action but the careful progression of the relationships.    It’s lovely.   I’m quite surprised I didn’t find more reviews — it seems to be on many lists, though.

RATING:   Three slices of pie.

OTHER REVIEWS:  BookGirl’s Nightstand, ???  Anyone else?


No one spoke,
The host, the guest,
The white chrysanthemums.



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18 thoughts on “The Samurai’s Garden

  1. Thanks for linking my review Care. I’m glad to hear you liked it. I really want to read more by this author and actually have another of her books but I think it might be a sequel to another? I need to double check as you know me, gotta read the books in order🙂

  2. This sounds like it could be a beautiful read. Like Kathy (Bermudaonion) I need to be in a certain mood for a slow paced read…. I swear sometimes I have some sort of book ADD…. catch and hold y attention while you can or I move on to something else on the shelf🙂

  3. I read Tsukiyama’s Street of a Thousand Blossoms and felt the same way about her writing. I’m going to have to keep an eye out for this one.

    1. SOme books are like that, yes? I guess each book tends to require a certain mood. Which is why I usually want to know NOTHING when I start a book – if it’s good and it’s different than I expect (right or wrong) then I just love the experience more.

    1. I have not read enough Japanese Lit but I’m wondering if they do tend to have this quiet gentleness to them. I hate thinking that – sounds like I’m stereotyping! ugh.

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