My husband and I meet doing Aikido, a martial art and anything Japanese that comes my way is always inviting.
This novel, though it has a Japanese sounding title, is not about Japan. The story is set mostly in Spain, however, a beautifully hand forged Japanese sword weaves it way from Chapter One through to the end, in appearance, and metaphor.
The Sadness of the Samurai has page turning plot. It involves converging generational stories of ambition, love, betrayal and circumstance. Female lawyer and her one-time Fascist father and misogynistic husband cross destinies with ne’er-do-well Spanish politicians and their low-life sociopath cronies, lovelorn teachers and jailed police investigators. Yes, this unlikely crew of characters surprisingly weaves together into smooth reading that has a satisfying and strong sense of place.
The novel takes the reader from 30s pre-Franco Spain to the WW2 Russian front and prison camp in Siberia, to beachfront condo in Barcelona in the 80s, a hospital cancer ward, and a few places in between, including a treatise on Japanese Samurai and seppuku.
The language is both beautiful and brutal: a real treat to read such unusual, unexpected nuggets of words. For instance, “..a gust of unpleasant wind dragged drizzle along with it”; “her gaze was like boiling water being poured on his beard, which for the last four days had been frozen”; and “she devotedly wrote in her diary as if she were tattooing each word on the skin of her beloved.”
A warning: at times the descriptions are graphic and violent, as in the case of a woman chained up in a dark house who is servant and sexual slave to a emotionally crippled man whose face and torso were charred in an insane asylum fire. in fact all the women in the novel are abused ( beaten, raped, beheaded) and the main woman character abuses herself with non-stop smoking, eventually suffering the consequences.
The novel’s message is about justice, forgiveness and hope. We all bleed; some wounds heal; others remain. Humans can’t really forget .In the silence of the forgetting we can still hear screams of victims and the hatred and pain that never goes away.
A wonderful, large read with many dark corners.