Malcolm Struan, the heir to the most powerful English trading company in the Orient, finds his fate intertwined with that of a beautiful young French woman. By the author of Shogun. 700,000 first printing. $700,000 ad/promo.
I will admit that at times, Clavell has characters 'space out' when they are in the middle of a conversation. At times it is difficult to keep up with the transitions he goes through.
But I still had to give it 5 stars because I loved every minute of this book. The characters are superb and if you have read shogun and tai-pan then you feel like you are still in the same book only later in life.
Read it, it will not disappoint you...
The opening of Japan is one of the country's most fascinating periods, when centuries of tradition were turned topsy-turvy and the way of life was wrenched into the Modern Age almost overnight. I eagerly awaited Gai-Jin and Clavell's interpretation.
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Perhaps he was old and forgetful, perhaps he was too sick, or maybe he was so important a writer that no one dared tell him, "Jim, you need to do more research before you publish this -- your Japanese characters are using Chinese(? - anyway, not Japanese) words, and phonemes that aren't even in the Japanese language. You've given men's names to women, and bonze (Buddhist priest) names to young men who haven't retired to the priesthood, and your leading Japanese character only has half a name." (Yoshi is a sometimes a modern nickname, but for a "full" given name like Yoshinobu, Yoshitada or Yoshi-e. No samurai or noble would have ever used a half-name in a formal introduction.) As I read further, I found that the mistakes weren't just in the details, but even in the fundamental characterizations of the factions and forces that were struggling within Japan about what to do with the foreigners on their shores.
I have a question. Why Angelique? Why do I have to suffer trough the mewlings of the airhead? And however unearthily beautiful, do all the men of the book really have so unified taste as to drool after the self-centered bimbo?
I liked the Japanese characters much better than the gai-jin. Was rooting for the shishi all the time.
I love to read about the samurai era Japan, but next time I'll pick a Japanese author.
Gai-Jin starts off that way as well. The first 400 or 500 pages of Gai-Jin are classic Clavell. Combining many of the stories and characters from Shogun, Tai Pan, and Noble House. The books first 500 pages are terrific. Clavell using some familiar faces from his other books sets the stage for the Meiji Restoration in Japan.
The book in typical Clavell fashion talks about the history of Japan after the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 as well as of China while it was divided up into spheres of influence.
Gai-Jin is so good at setting the stage for Meiji with its characters discussing Japan's options of either learning for the Gai-Jin or attempting a futile resistance and facing humilation like China suffered under the Opium Wars.
Unfortunately Clavell died shortly after finishing this book. And unfortunately the affects of his illness affect the second half of the book. The book just loses focus 1/2 way through. My gut feeling is that Clavell's illness just caught up to him. Because the book just goes downhill and nowhere which is not typical of Clavell.
Clavell will never be replaced. Other fictional books about Asia do not even compare. Cloud of Sparrows, The Laura Joh Rowland Books, are ok but not in Clavell's league. The first half of Gai-Jin reminds us how good he was. Unfortunately, he will never be replaced.
Unfortunately, I just can't recommend Gai-Jin. Read more