Monday, July 7, 2008

The Samurai's Garden

I finished The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama today. I don't think I ever posted the description, so in case you're interested, here it is:

"On the eve of the Second World War, a young Chinese man is sent to his family's summer home in Japan to recover from tuberculosis. He will rest, swim in the salubrious sea, and paint in the brilliant shoreside light. It will be quiet and solitary.

But he meets four local residents - a beautiful Japanese girl and three older people. What then ensues is a tale that readers will find at once classical yet utterly unique. Young Stephen has his own adventure, but it is the unfolding story of Matsu, Sachi and Kenzo that seizes your attention and will stay with you forever."

While this book was good, I think I should have trusted my first instinct and waited to read it. I just wasn't quite in the right mood for it. I think after the last few books I've read, it might have been smarter to break up the sequence with something a little lighter. Instead, it felt a little too much the same. I didn't love the diary style writing of the book, it seemed unecessary. The sequence of dates associated with each "entry" didn't really add anything to the story. I definitely think her story telling is superb, but if push comes to shove I think I'd choose Amy Tan (author of The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetters Daughter, The Hundred Secret Senses... there are many others but these are the only ones I've read) the next time I want a novel with a main character that's Chinese with a story that explores Asian culture. That said, I did get sucked into the story of Sachi and Matsu and her style of writing is very polished and beautiful. I think I was just more in the mood for something with a little wit.

My recent purchase, Midnight in Manhattan by Francesca Delbanco should be arriving any day now and might be just what I need. I'm hoping that it's out of print because it revealed the secrets of the universe and had to be contained and not because it sucked and no one bought it. I really liked her other book Ask Me Anything, so I have high hopes. I'm not going to lie though, the cover design I saw online is serving as just the tinniest of red flags. But maybe I'm just super sensitive to "red flags" after missing the ones associated with Modoc (quote by Betty White on the back cover, and you may remember this gem: "treasured by animal lovers everywhere" in the description). We shall see. As I just noticed online, it appears that Midnight in Manhattan as two different cover designs. Neither are bad, but one is definitely more in line with my expectations. Perhaps I will view the cover design as an omen. If I get the slightly more classy cover, then the book will be good. If I get the illustrated cover, anything goes. I'll let you know which one it is when it arrives.

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