Friday, August 28, 2015
The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
Then, as I read further, the characters began to come alive. I read another review that criticized the novel for going on too long after the war, but I found the personal tragedies that occurred at the end to be the best part. The characters had interesting reactions to the events they experienced, which made me care for them.
The story is about two brothers whose parents are killed in a ferry accident, so they are raised by their grandparents. One of the brothers, Hiroshi, is a talented sumo wrestler. The other, Kenji, is drawn to make Noh theater masks. Because the brothers are both interested in careers that are important to Japanese culture, Tsukiyama can spend a great deal of time describing those pastimes. Sumo wrestling gets a little more space than Noh theater, which disappointed me a bit. But all the descriptions were interesting to me.
I had some trouble with the names. I don't speak Japanese, so the sounds didn't stick with me as well as English names would. Combine that with the fact that the author used nicknames, surnames, and titles as well as the common names for some of the characters and I was confused. But after I listened to the narrative for awhile, the story always straightened itself out.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who would like to learn more about Japanese culture, especially around World War II.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions