Monday, April 2, 2012
Book Review of The Seventh Stone by Nancy Freedman
Author: Nancy Freedman
Publisher: Dutton, published by Penguin
Type of book: Japan, 1940s- 1990s, power, wealth, effects, revenge, tradition, liberality
Year it was published: 1992
A young man dies a hero in the Pacific in the closing months of World War II. His name is Noboru. His mission: that of a Kamikaze pilot. It is his lasting legacy that shadows this magnificent multi-generational saga spanning fifty years of war and peace- from Japan's grim wartime defeat to its stunning economic world triumph today.
Nancy Freedman, bestselling author of the unforgettable Mrs Mike, has written her crowning achievement in this richly textured novel about three generations of a Japanese family whose story crosses all cultural boundaries and geographical borders between East and West. At its heart is Momoko, Noboru's young widow, whose personal metamorphosis mirrors the changing face of Japan itself. Her courage and spirit are put to the test as she strives to rebuild her life in a society which denies all power to her sex. She is a mother who watches her young son Akio grow into a man she increasingly fears. His vast power is all the more dangerous for his being so brilliant; he is all the more shameful for his willingness to betray his mother sacred secret. Akio, fueled by revenge and twisted patriotism, builds a global business juggernaut to regain honor for his country so that Japan may finally conquer with economic might what it long ago failed to do with military force. As her son persists in waging a war long over, Momoko holds fast to the traditional values of Japan, finding their modern day application in an ever-changing world.
Ten years in the making, The Seventh Stone is a majestic novel of historic scope that expertly intertwines one woman's story within the larger story of a family, a culture, and a tradition. The result is a mesmerizing novel peopled with characters to treasure and a stunning portrait of a rich, enigmatic culture where a feudal past collides with an onrushing future.
I've actually enjoyed reading the earlier characters of Noboru, Momoko and Akio, although it did take me a while to understand and start enjoying the novel. However, by the time I started to enjoy Akio's complexity as well as his mindset and obsession, the character shifted to Miko. I didn't like Miko and what she was involved with, I could care less about. I think I desired to see more of Akio's psychology rather than brief glimpses during the formative years as his mother sees them. I also liked the character of Massaru, Akio's cousin and kind of wish that what happened didn't happen. Also as well, I didn't buy into Sumie's character. She loved Massaru until the accident, but then she married Akio?
There is a scene where Takeo and Akio are on a plane, and are about to play a game of Go. Takeo picks up seven stones and names them after the characters of Masaru, Kenji, Shigeru, Sumie, Juro, Miko and the last stone is Momoko, Akio's mother. There are also numerous mentions of how the bomb can be compared to the womb which can be linked to the harshness Akio received inside the womb when he was developing.
This is in third person from Noboru's, Momoko's, Akio's, and Miko's points of views. Unfortunately there is very little warning of when the author will shift her point of view from one character to another, although thank goodness its separated by paragraphs when she does so! There are plenty of explanations for numerous things but I still felt alienated from reading it. Its also a bit creepy how in some technology that the author writes about kind of came true.
Nancy Freedman is the author of ten novels, including her bestselling Mrs Mike, which has been translated into twenty-seven languages and has been kept continuously in print since 1949.
Although its obvious that the author took pains with research and describing the psychology of characters in a Japanese way, along with numerous explanations about the culture, this book was a torture to get through. The female characters were unappealing, Miko, Akio's daughter in particular, also it's not divided into chapters which made it more difficult to read. The crucial times for characters were glossed over or there were time jumps, and there was also confusion in beginning for me because I wasn't sure about whether or not Noboru went back home. The only part that was enjoyable for me was Akio.
(Whether or not the novel is accurate, click here)
1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)