I don’t ordinarily pick up a book with the word “heartbreaking” in its description or in reviews. I figure heartbreaking is what I get from the news.
But The Samurai’s Garden is heartbreaking—and I loved it.
Tsukiyama is a deft writer, spare in her prose. I often had the feeling that she weighed each word in this wonderful book with a postage scale, reaching for just the right balance of nuance and meaning in each phrase.
And the result is a poignancy that makes you sigh because is so real, so distilled in its essence that you can indulge in the ache of the characters while admiring their courage, looking over your shoulder for one last glance when you reach the final page.
I don’t often reach for superlatives when I review a book. I don’t often offer an unequivocal recommendation. But The Samurai’s Garden is a beauty. Indulge yourself. Read this book.
From a review on Amazon for Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden, which I started this morning and finished just now.
You can find a plot summary for yourself, but I can tell you now that this isn’t the sort of book you need a plot summary for. It’s just one of those quietly beautiful and terribly sad books like Never Let Me Go or A Pale View of the Hills where plot doesn’t matter so much as the characters, who are strong enough to support an entire novel where nothing much happens.
This book is a unique one, again because of the characters—a Chinese man, Stephen, raised in a very Westernized family in Hong Kong who goes to Japan to recover from TB; a woman, Sachi, who lives in a village in the hills of Japan, exiled for being a leper; a quiet, samurai-like old man, Matsu, who has served Stephen’s family for years and years and loved the Sachi all the while…
It’s a really, really beautiful book, okay, and I recommend to people who have the patience for really, really beautiful books and who don’t mind being a little heartbroken by the end. Also people who like Kazuo Ishiguro. Tsukiyama has said that it bears some similarity to Ishiguro’s books, which it does, while standing on its own as well.