Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shogun - James Clavell

Shogun
James Clavell
Dell
Copyright: 1986
978-0440178002

The amazon.com product description:
An explorer in seventeenth-century Japan, ambitious Englishman Blackthorne encounters the powerful and power-hungry Lord Toranaga and Catholic convert Lady Mariko. Reissue.
Talk about a hard-to-find book! Someone at the used bookstore recommended this one to me, then they were sold out on it. As were the next four bookstores I tried, both used books and new. Fifth store I got lucky.

As for the book itself, it's a bit hard to describe. There are a lot of characters, each of which is involved in plots within plots, alliances and personal agendae. And you're introduced to most of them right at the beginning of the book.

James Clavell has written an amazingly detailed novel in Shogun (it's over 1150 pages long). Despite that, the story doesn't drag at all. In fact, most of the time I hated to put the book down. At least, that was the case after the first hundred pages or so. Those were a bit of a slog as I tried to figure out who all the characters were, as well as the culture.

I found that I really got to know the characters, but also that every time I thought I knew what was going on, things were changed quickly enough that maybe it was really something else being set up by a different character. Also that every time I thought that maybe something was about to go really right for Captain Blackthorne, things ended up going quite wrong.

The ending was also quite open, not tied up neatly in a "happily ever after" type ending. But then, that's quite like real life. It certainly leaves plenty of room for the characters lives to continue (or not).

Japanese history is something I know very little about, but given the detail levels in this book, it certainly looks like James Clavell has done his reasearch in writing the story. It also seems (right now at least) as though the author may have modelled his story in Shogun off of the events told by Giles Milton in Samurai William, another of the books I bought last week (and the one I just started reading last night).

I really liked the read, but I don't know if I want to read Clavell's other books any time soon.
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