The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai

The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai

Book - 2012
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In the rich, dazzling, brutal world of twelfth-century Japan, one young girl begins her epic journey, from the warmth of family to the Village of Outcasts. Marked out by an auspicious omen, she is trained in the ancient warrior arts of the samurai. But it is through the power of storytelling that she learns to fight her fate, twisting her life on to a path even she could not have imagined. -- Page 4 of cover.
Publisher: London : Headline Review, 2012
ISBN: 9780755389261
Call Number: FICTION LAZAR 2012
Characteristics: 467 pages : genealogical tables, maps ; 24 cm


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Nov 07, 2014

(Spoiler alert.)

Lazar's novel is thoughtful and well-written, with a broad emotional and geographical scope, from isolated homestead to opulent city to blood-soaked battlefield. The book bears similarities to Memoirs of a Geisha, with some important differences. Lazar's heroine is not just a courtesan, but a samurai as well.

Both novels feature what I think of as Pretty Woman-style plot developments, although there are different complications in each case. Aspects of Lazar's plot are improbable, but her writing is skillful enough to allow me to suspend disbelief most of the time.

The samurai concept of honour as Lazar portrays it seems alien and illogical to me. If one is enslaved and has not chosen one's employer or made oaths of fealty, why should one owe that employer loyalty? This is an important question in the novel, since Lazar's heroine faces rape, cruelty, deceit and theft at the hands of her employers and their representatives.

My failure to "get" the samurai code may have more to do with my understanding than Lazar's presentation. She has researched her work with some care. Even so, some might perceive her decision to write a novel about feudal Japan as a form of cultural appropriation.

One of the more interesting facts that Lazar shares in the appendix is that virginity (male or female) was not seen as desirable in ancient Japan. Both men and women could initiate divorce. Children born out of wedlock were acknowledged and given status. Despite these factors, so much more progressive than Western mores at that time, Japanese women had a much lower status than men, or at the very least, women of the heroine's class.


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