Ever since my mum gave me Noble House to read probably 15 years ago I loved James Clavell’s books, interestingly at the same time I was reading Noble House for the first time my Bigger Half was reading King Rat and loved it as well, though I could never convince him to other books by Clavell. When I finished The Artist’s Way, which was a bit of a struggle, I felt a bit lost, not knowing what to read next. At the airport waiting for my plane I started browsing through my Kindle and came across Shogun, then clearly something must have happened to my brain, because it told me I never read it, so happily I started, I got to page 50 before I realized that of course I read the book before, but by then I was hooked again so I stayed in Japan for another month.
I will admit I’ve never seen the series and I am not interested to, I have no idea why, but I have a very strong aversion to Richard Chamberlain and in my mind Anjin-san definitely didn’t look like him. That out of the way, let’s focus on the book, again, as during my previous reading, I was not fully convinced by the love story part of the plot, but luckily it is not the most important. What is fascinating is the portrait of Japan that Clavell paints, a country and culture so different, the differences enhanced by the foreigner’s experience. The book is a tribute to Japanese culture, not judging but leaving the judgement to us, asking us can we accept the completely different system of values. Clavell shows both the beauty and the cruelty of 17th century Japan. The clash between western and Japanese values jarring and instantly leading to conflict. His writing flows, sometimes feels a little bit sentimental, but keeps reader’s attention and even though the plot slows down in the middle of the book by then I was so fascinated by the culture again that I couldn’t stop reading.
I will not go into the plot details, because for me this book is mostly about a culture and plot and characters are expertly used props representing that culture. I have to stress the word ‘expertly’ the story is interesting, the characters developed, there’s just more to this book than this one story. While A Gentleman in Moscow recreated a whole world in a hotel, this book is a sprawling panorama of the time and the country in turmoil and people caught up in it. Both books however have the ability to transport the reader to a completely different world and if that’s not the point of reading then I don’t know what is.
Have you read any of Clavell’s books? What do you think?