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Sword and Blossom: A British Officer's Enduring Love for a Japanese Woman Hardcover – June 8, 2006
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
The word "enduring" isn't completely accurate in describing the romance between Capt. Arthur Hart-Synnot and the young Japanese woman who became his mistress, Masa Suzuki, because he eventually abandoned her to marry an Englishwoman. Yet their tender, binational understanding is captured by British journalists Pagnamenta and Williams in recently unearthed letters dating from 1904, when the British captain first met Suzuki in Tokyo, until the year before his death, in 1942. Hart-Synnot, who hailed from a family of soldiers seated at Ballymoyer, in Ireland, was recruited to study Japanese to shore up relations between Britain and Japan, then embroiled in war with imperial Russia. At 34, unmarried, a good linguist and eager to travel, Hart-Synnot found Japan charmingly cultured, while the 25-year-old working-class divorcée Suzuki had little to look forward to beside domestic drudgery. Their affair led to language lessons, and eventually she became his housekeeper. He was posted throughout the Far East, and always returned to Suzuki until he was sent to France by WWI. Injured in battle, his legs amputated, he claimed that he could not manage to return to Japan, and instead married his nurse, to the bitterness of Suzuki. Pagnamenta and Williams offer a deeply sympathetic portrayal of this doomed long-distance romance. (June)
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...a fascinating narrative that spans decades of upheaval. A- -- Entertainment Weekly, June 17, 2006
The essence of this inexpressibly beautiful story will remain with me, I believe, for the rest of my life. -- Simon Winchester, author of A Crack in the Edge of the World and The Professor and the Madman
Top customer reviews
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"Sword and Blossom" is fascinating even from its initial premise. An Irish army officer and his Japanese love continue a multi-decade long relationship mainly through letters, as circumstances do not permit them to be together. Beginning in 1904 and going through World War II, they see each other through great upheavals and changes, through Japan's emergence as a world power in the defeat of Russia, through the initial peaceful promise of a British/Japanese alliance, and the bitter struggle as enemies those nations would later endure. Many of these letters survive, carefully packed away in a box to be re-discovered by a later generation who had no inkling of the powerful love and suffering that their grandmother had endured.
Co-authors Peter Pagnamenta and Momoko Williams used these letters as the basis for their story, doing extensive research on the politics and movements of the time to tell the story of Captain Arthur Hart-Synnot and Masa Suzuki, who met in 1904 and fell in love while Hart-Synnot was stationed in Japan. Unlike most men of the time, who treated their Japanese women as "temporary wives," Arthur was truly in love with Masa, and dreamed of a future where they could be married, raise children and live in happiness and comfort. This love endured monumental circumstances, as Arthur's army career had him stationed in places as distant as Burma and India as well as fighting on the front in World War I.
Aside from the love story, I really enjoyed the historical aspects of "Sword and Blossum" as well. I knew very little about the British/Japanese alliance pre-dating WWI, when both nations saw themselves as reflections of each other, small island countries that had made themselves masters of their respective spheres. The "English Gentleman" and the Samurai were seen as two sides of the same coin, and the two countries felt that they would forge the future together.
The story of Arthur and Masa is ultimately a slightly frustrating one, as that dream of perfect happiness seems to be continually in their grips if only they would close their hands. It was not legal issues that kept them apart. In the same year that they met, Arthur's countryman Lafcadio Hearn was living happily with his Japanese wife and their brood of children. But Arthur wanted to marry Masa and bring her to his ancestral estate in Ireland, while Masa would only agree to marry Arthur if he joined her in Japan. In the end, when Arthur eventually marries another woman even though he clearly still loves Masa, it seems like a betrayal of their promise except for the fact that Arthur begged and pleaded with Masa to marry him, only to be refused time and again. To fall in love is easy, but to leave the country you love forever for a place where everything is strange and unwelcome is a daunting prospect indeed.
Yes, it is a good story idea but the format is what killed the story for me. It is mainly the letters written by Arthur Hart-Synnot along with historical information. Or in Adverage Joe (or Josephine) terms sappy lettas along wit historical rambling.
In the beginning of the book his letters are sweet and you get that warm feeling in your heart. By the time you reach half way through the book the words that were once sweet you now have heard one too many times and now you are rolling your eyes and asking "OMG do I really have to hear this for the rest of the book???" And, "yeah, yeah, yeah. You are Lonely Arthur. Whatever."
If he REALLY loved her to the point were he put her before his own family why didn't he just leave everything for her? One minute he is with his family and he realizes he cares more about her then them, next his excuse for not going was he needed to achieve the status his father and uncle had achieved. Also he wanted a better pension. Yeah, he needs the extra couple of bucks to live in Japan back in that day. Maybe he truly did not want to go.
Regarding the historical information. If you are into that, groovy. Personally, I found it in the way. Sure, you need to know what was going on
His career eventually takes him out of Asia. He begs her to marry him and come to his estate in Ireland, but she, probably wisely, refuses.
He's never that interested in their two sons and when he does visit wants her all to himself without them.
Throughout the book it's obvious that he is a jerk, but I couldn't help but hope that he would change.
A true and very sad story. Interesting pictures are included.
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