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Shogun

A book by James Clavell

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One of the Finest "Popular" Historical Novels!

  • Jul 13, 2000
  • by
Rating:
+5
For sheer narrative power and immersion in another world, few have done it better than Clavell in Shogun. The book grabs you from the first page and never seems to let go. It's an easy read, too, since you barely notice you're reading. (I read it in three days back in the seventies, hardly stopping for air, and have needed bifocals with reading lenses ever since.) A tale of a shipwrecked English ship's pilot in 16th century Japan, this book sweeps the reader through a murky world of political intrigue and bloody violence as the English protagonist, Blackthorne, encounters an alien culture and a world quite unlike any he had known before. Yet, for all its rich evocation of the medieval Japanese nation, the book has some unfortunate blunders including an allusion to a samurai using judo (not invented until the 1880's, while this book takes place in the 16th century) and another shaking off his sandals to kick at an enemy (quite out of character for such warriors since they were predominantly weaponed soldiers who would never choose to kick an enemy if they had access to one of their traditional instruments of war as this one manifestly does . . . and besides so-called karate kicking wasn't introduced into Japan, from Okinawa, until the 1920's). The worst error, however, had Lord Toranaga, Blackthorne's captor and mentor, playing chess, a western game, when it would have made more sense for him to be playing the indigenous Japanese game of go instead. But the Japanese warriors did have jiu-jitsu, the forerunner of modern judo, and kicking could have been a part of what they did (however unlikely) and Toronaga could have taught himself chess since he is portrayed as a quick study with a keen and very deep mind. And besides, these are minor quibbles. Basically, this is a powerful tale of intrigue and maneuvering as the players move about on the chessboard of feudal Japan, never certain who among them is really moving the pieces and who is just being moved -- at least until the end. The sense and feel of the culture, if not the details, also ring remarkably true and you do feel as though you've lived the entire experience when at last you close the book on the final page. The characters themselves are based on real people; the events on things that really occurred -- though Clavell granted himself literary license to manipulate and recast what he found in the histories to make his tale a more dramatic one. It's not a true story in that sense, but it's a great one and well worth a pair of glasses.

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More Shogun reviews
review by . May 16, 2009
This rates up with the best books I have ever read. The book looks imposing (more than 1200 pages) but once you start you will be about 500 pages into it before you know it. Super-rich in history with one of the most interesting characters, Anjin-san (Japanese for Mr. Pilot). Anjin-san is marooned in feudal Japan and makes a decision to change his Western thinking and fit in to the totally foreign but alluring Japanese society. He is drawn into a forbidden love with a Japanese noblewoman, while …
review by . March 25, 2003
SHOGUN and AZTEC are the best historical epics ever, in my opinion. SHOGUN is fast moving, takes place in a society we don't know much about, has engaging heros and villains, is stunningly detailed and well-researched, and is quite violent. These days, historical epics also spend a lot of time on sex, and SHOGUN comes from a more old-fashioned time, so it is fairly tame in that respect, but for violence, you'll be hard pressed to find more.The book is insanely long, and yet as it begins to reach …
review by . May 20, 2002
This rates up with the best books I have ever read. The book looks imposing (more than 1200 pages) but once you start you will be about 500 pages into it before you know it.Super-rich in history with one of the most interesting characters, Anjin-san (Japanese for Mr. Pilot). Anjin-san is marooned in feudal Japan and makes a decision to change his Western thinking and fit in to the totally foreign but alluring Japanese society.He is drawn into a forbidden love with a Japanese noblewoman, while battling …
review by . March 25, 1999
If you want to become immersed in a really good book you cannot go past Shogun. The detail and historical accuracy is amazing, the characters human and indentifiable, and the ending will astound you. It is hugely entertaining - I cannot recommend it highly enough.
About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #232
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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Wiki

Shōgun is a 1975 novel by James Clavell. It is the first novel in the author's Asian Saga. It is set in feudal Japan in the year 1600 some months before the critical battle of Sekigahara, and gives an account of the rise of the daimyo "Toranaga" (analogous to the real-life Tokugawa Ieyasu) to the Shogunate, seen through the eyes of an English sailor whose fictional heroics are loosely based on William Adams' exploits
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Tags

Books, Historical Fiction, Japanese Fiction, Samurais, Feudal Japan, Samurai Fiction, James Clavell

Details

ISBN-10: 0440178002
ISBN-13: 978-0440178002
Author: James Clavell
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Dell
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