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.



Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

18 Responses to “The Samurai’s Garden”

  1. 1 bermudaonion July 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I wonder if there would be enough action for me. I have to be in the right mood to read a book that doesn’t progress very quickly. Great review.

  2. 3 Dorte H July 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    It sounds as if this one is strong on sense of place rather than pace.

    NB: I have fixed the challenge link.

  3. 5 iliana July 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    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 :)

  4. 7 Bookjourney July 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    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 :)

  5. 9 Lisa July 21, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    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.

  6. 11 Serena July 22, 2010 at 8:42 am

    This is a book I would have to be in the mood for. thanks for the review.

    • 12 Care July 27, 2010 at 7:11 am

      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.

  7. 13 Iris July 22, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I think I would have to be in the right mood to read this book, but if I am it sounds like a lovely read.

    • 14 Care July 27, 2010 at 7:12 am

      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.

  8. 15 Esme July 26, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Have you read her other books-I quite enjoy her books-especially Women of the Silk.

    • 16 Care July 27, 2010 at 7:13 am

      I have not but do want to read more. She is very talented but I’m not sure her style is my favorite. Which is why I need to read more!

  9. 17 Esme August 4, 2010 at 12:06 am

    I have enjoyed all of her books.

  10. 18 Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) August 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve been meaning to try this author. I don’t mind waiting for something to happen, especially when I know it’s a slow novel from the start. I hope it’s okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

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I prefer pi.


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