Ugh. I don’t really know how to say this eloquently but here it is: this book sucked. Dreadfully. It had so much promise – Japan, historical fiction, a strong female character, a beautiful cover…and yet I had to force myself to read it. It was boring, I couldn’t keep track of the characters and it jumped around a lot. I think I know even less now of the samurai era than before I started.
Blossoms and Shadows is set in 1860s Japan, as Westerners began to enter the country and Japan itself was in a revolution. We follow Tsuru, a doctor’s daughter, as she grows up, gets married and works in war-ravaged Japan. She has an illicit relationship with a family member while pretending to be a man, suffers a breakdown, goes back to her husband and eventually adopts her sister’s child. Tsuru occasionally disappears during the book and we follow a Japanese historical figure for a chapter. I found this particularly difficult as I couldn’t keep track of their names (and I studied Japanese for six years!) nor did they have a lot of meaning or anything memorable to keep them in my head.
While beautifully presented, this novel has little to recommend it. Perhaps if you are already familiar with this period in Japanese history, you might enjoy it. Tsuru is an uncomfortable character, chopping and changing in sex, her ambition and loves. It’s hard to follow and frankly, quite boring.
Read this if: Frankly, I wouldn’t.
2 out of 10.