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Gai-jin: A Novel of Japan [Paperback]

JAMES CLAVELL
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Feb. 2 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Though there have been numerous negative comments surrounding this book, I thought I would tackle it anyway. And I have to say it was well worth it.
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...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gai-jin - An unworthy end to a great career. Sept. 10 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was captivated by Shogun, and it sparked what has come to be a life-long fascination and study of Japan. As I learned, I recognized that Clavell's characterization of Japanese culture and this particular period in Japanese history was not entirely accurate. But he was telling a story for Western audiences, and it was an historical novel, not a history. Had he not taken artistic license, perhaps I would not have been so entranced.

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.

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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Clavell was the best dest Gai-Jin Jan. 24 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
First and foremost James Clavell was one of the most talented writers ever. Especially if you like fiction about Asia. Not only did he tell great stories but his books were filled with so much good history and culture about places like China and Japan. Though I was never a fan of "King Rat" books like Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House were some of the best I ever read. They were books you never wanted to end.
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.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Just finished this book yesterday.I was positively hooked on it once I opened it. A friend recommended this one to me since I'm a big admirer of Japanese culture. This book has so many complicated stories going on it can be rough to keep up with them all at once, especially when they all weave together, but you still care for each of the characters. The story allows you to see all sides of every conflict, there is no black or white, it's all grey. You root for almost every character, even though they are all conflicting with each other. For example, the Shogunate rule the country with military might while the revolutionary shishi samurai, driven to poverty by the shogunate's excesses, are organising a coup to restore power to the emperor. The man passed over as shogun, Lord Yoshi, is strong and admirable and beset by enemies on all sides; a target of shishi assassinations and power grabs from within his own shogunate. Meanwhile, he must deal with the gai-jin (foreigners) who have been allowed to settle in Yokohama and are hated by shishi and shogunate alike. But the British navy threatens to crush Yedo (Tokyo) and take Japan by force if not allowed to conduct their trade. As the Japanese have no guns or cannons, they must comply...for now. Hiraga (who uses several names over the course of the book to hide his identity) is a shishi who wishes to exterminate all gai-jin and the shogunate as well. Sounds like an evil character, but you come to understand his point of view and even root for the guy as he crawls through the snakes' nest that is the politics of 19th century Japan. Like I said, a lot of grey area, when the shishi attempt to assassinate Yoshi you don't know who to root for. That kind of stuff makes this book so engaging. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Close, very close
The book is like the author's other saga book, save it covers too many sub plots and characters, to flow smoothly. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. David M Shepherd
5.0 out of 5 stars An historical novel that is second to none.
The late James Clavell was a master story teller and this is one of his best efforts. Hard to put down.
Published 12 months ago by Allan Carin
5.0 out of 5 stars !
Great purchase, couldnt be happier, Ive read every book in the series so far and keep coming back for the next one.
Published 15 months ago by Jon
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
Fantastic historical details of early Japan and would be traders. Great read but there is somewhat graphic details of the Willow World (courtesans & prostitutes). Read more
Published 19 months ago by Gary
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, not great
Sometimes amusing, sometimes irritating. Too often the writing seems to be there only in order to show off mr Clavell's research that he however hasn't put in perfect use, as... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Fancy Moses!
The thought that kept churning through my head was, "Has Clavell lost his touch/mind? Was this written by some ghost writer pretending to be Clavell". Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2003 by "jalamdhara"
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Effort, from a past master
This book has all the flaws mentioned by other reviewers, but for me it was an enjoyable read, particularly as it neared the conclusion. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2003 by charles ballew
2.0 out of 5 stars can't recommend this book.
Shogun is one of my favorite books, and I was pleased to find Gai-Jin in a used book store while I was travelling in New Zealand. Read more
Published on May 18 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Read
Of all the authors I have read books from in the past years, none have caught my eye like James Clavell. Read more
Published on April 29 2003 by Max Burnette
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to recommend this one
I agree with the other reviewers who comment on the second half/finish of the book. After over 1200 pages too much is left unresolved. Read more
Published on March 25 2003
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