Saturday, August 7, 2010

Reading History Part III: James Clavell's Asian Saga

Reading History Part III: James Clavell's Asian Saga

To be fair, these are the novels I have read: Shogun, Taipan and Gaijin. I have made attempts to finish Noble House but wasn't able to. Since finishing up a review on Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka, I couldn't help but started to think of James Clavell, in particular the three novels I have read. While some parts were informative with Asian culture, I detested all three novels which I will go into in the next several paragraphs. I will briefly discuss the novels then move on to my reactions towards them. 

I cannot remember how I have heard of them, maybe through amazon, maybe by luck, I forget, but I remember starting with Shogun I believe, or was it Gaijin, I forget.I started reading these books when I was in high school, possibly a junior or a senior (I was eighteen or nineteen at the time,) Shogun is about an Englishman working for dutch people who goes looking for the mysterious Island of Japan. The book began simply enough with them getting wrecked but then for someone who is not familiar with Japanese culture it becomes pretty hard to follow who is who and all that. (It doesn't help that there seemed to be no character sheet and that they were way too thick.) I remember reading this and not having a clue on what is going, (a timeline would also have been a huge help,) As I was getting closer and closer to finishing it, it became pretty hard for me to know what is done and why things were done in a particular way. I recall reading through hundreds of pages and not having an idea of what happened or why it happened. I was reading it simply to finish it and that was that. I recall that the Englishman became as good as the Japanese if not better, (Think of the movie called Last Samurai,) and like a tragic love story lost his true love although there was a promise that a certain woman was pregnant and would have his child. 

Taipan was slightly better (and shorter) than Shogun and seemed to be much more realistic and whatnot. The Englishmen took over Hong Kong and it focuses on a relationship between Dirk and his son Culum. (Again it has Asian female and white male tragic love story,) and again I didn't enjoy the portrayal of Asian men. (Why is it in Clavell's novels all the Asian men are shady and have triad connections?) Again it was an entertaining story with some interesting tidbits about culture of back then and might satisfy history majors. 

The last novel that I have read, Gaijin, I don't think I possess enough words to say how much I detested it, much more than Shogun. Again, too many characters and the character sheet was not helpful at all. Part that I disliked most of all is the one where the female gets raped by a Japanese male and second time around this happens she kills him. I'm not advocating rape, I just find it interesting that as far as I read none of the white men had done it to Asian women. In fact, the white men cannot compare to Asian men. Some are shady but they all seem to possess loyalty and all, while the same cannot be said of the Asian men in his story. 

I apologize for harping too much on this, but since I discussed Cloud of Sparrows, I hope that everyone cna understand why I chose to discuss Clavell's novels and why I detested those books so much. 

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