Shogun: Exotic, enlightening, entertaining

James Clavell’s 1966 bestseller, Tai-Pan, was a whopping novel.

a drawing of a samurai sword on the cover of Shogun
This often-read library copy of Shogun  is coming apart.

Shogun is monumental.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a ship has washes up in Japan. Her pilot, James Blackthorne, had hoped to be the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, wrest control of Oriental trade from the Spanish and Portuguese, and make himself very rich.

The Japanese think Blackthorne a barbarian; Catholic priests see him as a heretic.

Until the heir to the throne is old enough to assume his lawful position, Japan is being ruled by five feudal lords, none of whom trusts the others.

Only of the five,  only Toranaga sees any value in keeping Blackthorne alive.

Like the skilled falconer he is, Toranaga bends Blackthorne to his will: Blackthorne must learn to speak Japanese and become Japanese.

None of the Japanese characters is what he or he appears to be.

The plot twists and turns and stands on its head as the five lords, their wives, consorts, and relatives vie for control, always polite, always with a sharp knife within reach.

Readers who can bear up under the physical strain of reading Shogun—it’s 803 pages of small print and weighs 3.2 pounds—will find themselves fascinated, informed, and shocked by a surprise ending that, in retrospect, is perfect.

Shogun: A Novel of Japan by James Clavell
Atheneum [1975] 803 p.
1975 bestseller #9. My grade: A

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni