Monday, 9 March 2015

The Courtesan and the Samurai

by Lesley Downer
Rating: 3.5/5


Pages: 480 pages
Publisher:  Corgi
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 9780552155328

Summary (via Goodreads)

1868. In Japan's exotic pleasure quarters, sex is for sale and the only forbidden fruit is love ...

Hana is just seventeen when her husband goes to war, leaving her alone and vulnerable. When enemy soldiers attack her house she flees across the shattered city of Tokyo and takes refuge in the Yoshiwara, its famous pleasure-quarters.There she is forced to become a courtesan.

Yozo, brave, loyal and a brilliant swordsman, is pledged to the embattled shogun. He sails to the frozen north to join his rebel comrades for a desperate last stand. Defeated, he makes his way south to the only place where a man is beyond the reach of the law - the Yoshiwara.

There in the Nightless City where three thousand courtesans mingle with geishas and jesters, the battered fugitive meets the beautiful courtesan. But each has a secret so terrible that once revealed it will threaten their very lives ...


The Courtesan and the Samurai is full of lust, adventure, danger, war, betrayal, fear, love and above all, loyalty, not to mention revenge. The book tells the story of Hana, the humble wife of a Samurai who, when confronted with death finds the courage to fight and survive which leads her on a journey of self discovery down a dark and dangerous path from which there is no return.

Then, just when Hana fears that her life will take a turn for the worst she meets Yozo, a handsome young man running from his own demons. Together they confront their pasts and fight for their freedom.

Overall I found the book to be interesting and enjoyable to read. I felt that Downer created the characters well and made them all stimulating individually as well as a collective without which the book would not be as successful. The wider characters within the book, particularly on Yozo's side, helped to make the book more interesting and bringing warmth and humour the story.

I have to admit that I found Hana's storyline more interesting to read about than Yozo's but this was more influenced by personal preference than a reflection on the book's content as Yozo's storyline was necessary in order to fully comprehend Hana's.

I did find certain parts of the book to be predictable but this did not hinder my enjoyment of the book overall whatsoever, if anything it made me anticipate the eventual ending all the more.

I would recommend this book to any lover of forbidden love or Chinese fiction.

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