Friday, June 3, 2011
Book 1: The Commoner
John Burnham Schwartz's The Commoner presents a fictionalized view of the life of the current Empress of Japan, showing how cruel and dehumanizing the rituals and traditions of imperial life are for the first non-aristocratic woman to marry into the Japanese royal family. She swallows her sorrow and forces herself to do her duty, but when her son falls in love with a vibrant diplomat, she hopes the ease the woman's transition into the artificial court life. In Schwartz's account, this is impossible, and instead the only grain of hope is in escaping Japan for a better life in New York. Somehow the story reads as if it were written by an American in New York rather than anyone in Japan, and I don't think it really represents the interior life of the Haruko, but it was an interesting story.