In a wonderful world shaped by beauty and poetry, ancient traditions and popular intrigue, a young woman at the centre of the eleventh-century Japanese imperial court observes the exotic world around her. Murasaki sees everything, the Emperor and Empress, aristocrats and concubines, warriors and servants, her own family. She records a remarkable place of political and sexual plotting, male power and female manipulation, as she writes the Tale of Genji, the masterpiece of Japanese literature.
For whatever reason, The Tale of Murasaki and I didn’t really get along very well. I had it out from the library for several months and it never really managed to capture my attention in the first few pages, so I always put it aside in favor of something else. When I realized I was going to move and change libraries, I knew it was time to read it or I was probably never going to. Unfortunately it never really improved on the first few pages. I found myself very detached from the narrator, Murasaki, and it irked me that the description (as you see) promised court life when that only comprised the last third of the book. For the most part Murasaki was a passive character, feverishly writing Genji stories but not too in control of her own destiny. I was interested in all the details, but I just felt like I could never really get into the story and appreciate it properly.
I also think it would have been helpful had I read The Tale of Genji beforehand, because apparently the author parallels their stories, and some other contemporary Japanese literature, in interesting ways. Unfortunately, since I am vastly inexperienced with Japanese lit, this didn’t work out so well for me, and I was sorry I tried it without reading Genji first. That still sounds interesting, so I suspect I will give it a shot soon.
Lastly, I can’t really discount the fact that I read this at a somewhat stressful time when most books seemed to be leaving me dissatisfied, so if the premise remains interesting to you, it may still be worth reading. It certainly gets across the feel of medieval Japan, it’s just a shame that I was never really interested in the story or the characters.
I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.