From Publishers Weekly
Following the success of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Milton focuses on the exploits of another undiscovered historical personage to center a more expansive story. The individual is William Adams, and the larger narrative is the developing trade relationship between Japan and Western Europe. Adams arrived in Japan in 1600 after a death-defying 20-month voyage. Over the next two decades, he embraced Japanese culture, learned the language and rose to prominence in the court of the reigning Shogun, Ieyasu. His prominence allowed the English to outmaneuver the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch for access to Japanese markets. Much of Milton's story reflects the almost instinctive Western impulse to to take enormous risks in search of riches. The narrative is energized by his accounts of shipwrecks, gruesome deaths from disease and the predations of cannibalistic tribes who attacked ships stopping for provisions. He takes advantage of additional opportunities for gore when describing the dual nature of the Japanese society, highly cultured on the one hand, but barbaric and violent on the other. Milton also offers accounts of the sexual indulgences of the Europeans in Japan, often driven in equal parts by cupidity and concupiscence. In the end the efforts of the Europeans to open trade were futile because, as Milton notes, in 1620, after the death of Ieyasu, his heir closed Japan until the mid-19th century. Milton couches considerable scholarship in a vivacious and colorful narrative that will appeal to lovers of historical adventure. Illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In 1600, the dawn of the modern world, when overseas journeys were measured in months and even years, William Adams (1564-1620), an English mariner of humble origins, washed up on the shores of Japan with a band of his fellows. Through a combination of skill, native wit, guile, and good luck, Adams became the confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the powerful warlord who founded modern Japan. Milton (Nathaniel's Nutmeg) places Adams at the center of this rollicking popular history of early European intercourse, in all the senses of that term, with a Japanese society in many respects far more cultured and civilized than Europe. This rowdy and riveting tale is peopled with a large and colorful cast of European merchant adventurers, rogues, and miscreants who sought fame and fortune in the service of the British East India Company and like enterprises. Milton is a gifted storyteller with an eye for the graphic, often gruesome, detail. This is the kind of page turner that will keep you up way past your bedtime. For all libraries.
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Steven I. Levine, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.