The Samurai’s Garden by Patricia Kiyono is set at the beginning of the Meiji Era in Japan, around 1875. The time of daimyo rule and the samurai class has come to an end, leaving hundreds of displaced samurai with skills no longer required by a nation recouping its losses. Ronin — rogue samurai — are now a plague to the nation that once revered them. This is the setting in which we find Hiro, an ex-samurai searching for peace, and Hanako, a farmer whose husband was killed by a band of ronin. Under the guise of pretending to be her husband-to-be, Hiro assists Hanako in the day-to-day labor on the farm, where he finally finds the peace he was craving, and more so. However, this tranquility is not destined to last if a shadow from Hiro’s past succeeds in his plot.
The Samurai’s Garden is a quick read, with the story lasting 206 pages, with a novella in the last pages of the novel. It is written in a straight-forward style, and at a quick pace that keeps the readers hooked. The storyline is interesting and readers will grow to care for Hiro and Hanako. A concern for interested readers would be that some general knowledge about the time period would be useful, as the book does not explain what a daimyo is, or the customs of etiquette appropriate for the time period. A read-alike for this novel would be Ron Rash’s The Cove, simply in the style of the writing, but for others set in historical Japan, the novels of Gail Tsukiyama and Memoirs of a Geisha by Andrew Golden are similar.
Kiyono is continuing the story of the Hanakas through their succeeding generations, in The Plum Blossom Covenant. No release date has been set as of this writing.
Kiyono’s book is part of the Local Indie @ KDL collection, housed at the Cascade Township and Kentwood (Richard L. Root) branches. It was created to give independent authors, filmmakers and musicians the opportunity to be added to our shelves and to be featured by staff in order to increase viewers, readers and listeners.
(reviewed by Emily at the Cascade Township branch)
Posted by: Craig