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Musashi Hardcover – May 15, 1995
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This is a big, epic book, with many characters, almost all of whom, as in Dickens or Balzac, represent a familiar or very particular type, whether loyal and long-suffering, painfully ethical, misguided and clumsy but well-meaning, or
cruel and heartless. The many faces of human nature are well represented.
The key characters all have some development, but I felt that, at nearly 1000 pages, the epic still did not give me as much of the lives of the most interesting
characters -- including Musashi himself -- as I wanted to experience (ie it was too short!)
Yoshikawa may have felt the the smart thing to do is to always leave the reader
eager for more, before the narrative becomes repetitive. My only serious criticism is that a one-page map of 17th century Japan would have enhanced the reading experience.
I am still reeling as to how the film rendition of Ichijoji temple completely watered down and missed the conflict with the Yoshioka school, how Sasaki was not in film the complex (and somewhat evil) man he was in the book, the military, socio economic context (increasingly wealthy merchants, vs royalty vs the military factions) was completely lost in the film it took a toll on the impact of the story (book wins hands down). You don't have to worry about the movie spoilers because different people live and die in different ways in the book.
Some of the translation was humorously dated- one would not imagine samurai insulting other with retro American epithets, but this was outweighed by the rich cultural aspects that were captured in vivid detail.Be prepared for a lot of characters and settings, they add to movement and conflict in a good way. I agree with the "best book ever" reviewers and ordered his Daimyo book because I liked this one so much.