Shogun: A Novel of Medieval Japan by James Clavell


May contain Spoilers!!!

Shogun is a very different novel from what I’m used to. First, while I love historical fiction, I feel that this went beyond the what we all expect from most other historical novels. What I mean is that the characters and their actions seem both larger than life, but also immensely human all in once. Secondly, the style of the writing is both exceptionally delicate in the descriptions of the places and emotions the story takes place, but also harsh and dynamic when an important action takes place. Lastly, the amount of research and attention to detail in this story is not only breathtaking, but also shows the immense dedication this author gave to this story. I’m sorry if the first two points are rather confusing, but this book is very hard to put into words.

The story takes place at the end of the Sengoku Jidai, or the Warring States Period of Japan. It’s the story of an English sailor who is shipwrecked in Japan and how he gets sucked into the intricate intrigue and politics of the feudal samurai who rule Japan in the name of the Emperor.  The Englishman, who takes on the Japanese name Anjin (Pilot in Japanese) finds himself going native as he discovers the many differences between his native homeland and that off the alien Japanese. One funny instance of this occurs when Anjin is forced to take a bath. Eventually Anjin finds not only love and loss, but eventually new world look during this great adventure.

This novel presents many interesting questions for the reader through the actions of the main character. For instance, what would any of us do should we find ourselves washed up on the shores of a foreign land with little to no one who can speak your native language with you? Do you adapt or try to keep a semblance of the life you left behind? The language barrier the main character has to break through is also an important and interesting point of the novel. As Anjin slowly learns Japanese he is also slowly becoming more Japanese than English. This offers a beautiful way with which to see the  major character changes Anjin goes through as his life begins to change.

Overall this was a brilliant novel and I eagerly suggest it to anyone who not only has an interest in politics or history, but also a good old adventure story! Also, if you have the time to find it, a brilliantly done miniseries based on the book was made during the 70s. This makes a wonderful companion to the book as well.


5 thoughts on “Shogun: A Novel of Medieval Japan by James Clavell

  1. I’ve read this novel twice. It was enjoyable both times!

    • It’s just a beautifully written tapestry of politics and intrigue! How could someone not like it? lol

      • Well, the first time around, my best friend had been reading it for a while and kept going on and on about her favorite character. I started reading after her, and was ALMOST caught up to her when she told me that her favorite character died. I never let her live that down….

      • Oh my how could she knowingly do that to someone???? haha

  2. Pingback: #DailyBookQuote 11June2013 : James Clavell’s Shogun | Whatever It's Worth...

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