Day four of Book Advent and I am really keen to travel on a bit now and to find myself in a new and distant land. So I rip off the brown paper off the parcel and take out a book I read a little while ago. I don’t know when I read it or where I travelled to via its pages. What I do know is that I’m off to somewhere from the comfort of my armchair. Book Advent is lots of fun….
I’m off to Tokyo!
Tokyo, 1912. The closed world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders – rich provincial families, a new and powerful political and social elite.
Kiyoaki has been raised among the elegant Ayakura family – members of the waning aristocracy – but he is not one of them. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new, and his feelings for the exquisite, spirited Satoko, observed from the sidelines by his devoted friend Honda. When Satoko is engaged to a royal prince, Kiyoaki realises the magnitude of his passion.
Yukio Mishima, I discovered before reading this novel, was perhaps one of the most if not the most prolific Japanese writers of his time, and has written many plays and around 40 novels. And I had never heard of him. Right I thought, I’m off to Japan to experience his country and his writing. And I was not disappointed.
What I did discover had a air of sadness about it since Mishima committed seppuku, a brutal ritualistic suicide after a failed political coup at the age of 45.
Spring Snow is the first in his series of 4 books and tells the story of four successive reincarnations of a passionate man doomed to die young. This link with the author’s own tragic life and his works gave my reading an unexpected sense of sadness. He died less than five years after this book was published – how could he have written such a book above love and feelings and then take his own life? Tragic in more ways than one. Although this book is set against the backdrop of Japanese history and its dying aristocracy, its emotions and themes are universal and equally captivating across cultural borders. Teenage boys in love might be something you find hard to read or out of your comfort zone yet this book is so beautifully translated and I imagine so beautifully written that it is worth a read for the journey via emotions through Japanese history.