Title: The Samurai's Garden
Author: Gail Tsukiyama
Published: 1994 St. Martin's Press
Read For: Thursday Night Book Club
My Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
The Samurai's Garden captures a season in a young Chinese man's life during the Second World War. Suffering from tuberculosis, Stephan travels from his home in Hong Kong to his family's vacation home in Japan to recuperate. This one year shapes his view of life through learning about the cultural differences between China and Japan, as well as friends he makes, struggles with his healing body, problems in his family, and the overriding concern over Japan's invasion of China.
The writing is simple and polite, reflecting the Japanese culture Stephan finds himself in. The book is filled with scents of the ocean and Japanese food, and visions of beautiful Japanese gardens. There is an interesting side story of a leper colony in the mountains near the town were he is staying. Stephan's family's vacation home is taken care of by Matsu, who is a man among men: one to be looked up to. After the story is done, one has a sense that the story, much like the home that he takes care of, belongs more to Matsu than to Stephan.
Nothing really hooked me in this story. Nothing made me long to find out the ending, nothing made me feel attached to the characters. Nothing made me miss it when it was over. It was interesting, but not in the I keep thinking about it or I must find out more sense. It might worth a read if you are interested in the time period, the cultures, and the treatment of lepers in the early 1900s.