I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...
Title: The Peony Lantern
Author: Frances Watts
Publication Date: August 1st 2015
Synopsis: "When Kasumi leaves her remote village for the teeming city of Edo, her life is transformed. As a lady-in-waiting in a samurai mansion, she discovers a rare talent for art and falls in love with a young samurai. How could she ever return to the life of a simple mountain girl?
But Kasumi must set aside her own concerns. Her country is on the brink of change and Edo is simmering with tension. And her mistress has a dangerous secret - a secret that Kasumi is gradually drawn into..."
My thoughts: The Peony Lantern shows a very interesting view of nineteenth-century Japan, a world that I was happy to lose myself within. There was so much that I loved about this book. I loved that each chapter started with a small haiku - which now makes me want to go back through and read them all separately to see whether they are linked to the story itself (I may do that straight after writing this review). I loved the small snapshots into the life of a samurai's wife - the ikebana, the painting, the kimonos and hair-pieces. I even loved the tiny snapshots of the possible invasion of Japan of foreigners, and the fear of the ronin who so opposed this.
Having said all that, I did find at times that the characters kind of fell flat for me - Kasumi in particular. I just found that she repeated things to herself a little too often for comfort, and that I was a bit irritated with how often she told the readers things instead of just showing them with her actions or observations. At the times when she did do these things, I found myself really enjoying the story even more.
Romance was definitely introduced during the course of the story, and that was a little bit frustrating at times, but overall I really enjoyed the way it was written and the ending that was chosen in terms of that. It was lovely and written so beautifully in the end that it actually had me in tears a little bit. O_O So all the frustrations of earlier are forgiven.
Overall, I found Watts' writing style to be quite interesting, and I wouldn't mind exploring some of her other books. While this was quite a slim snapshot of Japanese life, it seemed to be quite well-researched and I enjoyed it a lot.
I received a review copy of this book from Harper Collins (thank you!).
You would like this book if: you are interested in Japanese life in the nineteenth century; you want to read about samurai.
Tea to drink while reading this book: green tea with jasmine would be perfect, I think. or matcha!
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