The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai – Barbara Lazar

I’m quite fascinated by Japanese culture so when I saw this book described as a cross between Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I was immediately curious. A pillow book is essentially a personal journal, named as the journal would be stored under the owners pillow where they slept. This story follows Kozaisho, who we are introduced to as fifth daughter while only a child and who we follow through her life as detailed by her pillow book.

 

This book was highly interesting and I read it quite quickly despite its size. The beliefs of the Japanese culture and of the Samurai are fascinating, dealing with the concepts of honour and keeping on the right path. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about them in more detail. Kozaisho was an intriguing and unique character to have as a protagonist. Her development though the book, across her life was immense and from what I can tell she was a pretty kick-ass female for her time. Deadly and intelligent and I enjoyed the portrayal of a strong female character back in a time when women didn’t have as many rights.

 

The only part of the novel I found could have improved the experience for me would be if it was told in more of a narrative way. This is more my own preference than a criticism of the book as it is all there in the title: the book was described as a journal and was written that way. I also found the voice of Kozaisho was a tad unbelievable at times in particular when she was a child. The voice read as a much older character in my mind and I struggled to comprehend her as a child at times.

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read which I recommend particularly if you have an interest in Japanese culture. The ending is quite haunting and brings the whole story to a fitting conclusion. I give this book three Japanese cherry blossoms.

 

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