Monday, March 9, 2009

The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer

Imagine you are 11 years old and growing up in a tiny village in rural Japan. Your pale skin has always set you apart from the other residents of the village but you are loved by your parents so you don’t really care. One day an Imperial princess passes through your village and takes you off to the women’s palace in the big city of Edo.

These are the circumstances that cause life to change drastically for Sachi. She has been chosen as a concubine for the young shogun. The next few years of her life are all about training – in every aspect of her life. She has no choice or say about anything.

Meanwhile, outside the palace walls, Japan is changing. Black ships from the west have arrived bringing foreigners who want to add Japan to their colonial empire and civil war erupts.
Sachi flees for her life and is rescued by a rebel warrior who awakens feelings in her that she never knew she had. However, in Japan, there are very clear lines as to who associates with whom and Sachi must unravel the mystery of her own origin before the possibility of a life with her samurai.

Although fiction, The Last Concubine gives a fascinating peek into the world of the people of Japan in the late 19th century.

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