Saturday, November 24, 2012
Book Review of Kenjiro by Pat Barr
Author: Pat Barr
Publisher: Warner Books
Type of book: Japan, Britain, culture clash, 1862-1869, 1888-1895, unbelievable, culturally poorly researched, foreigners, interracial relationship, Asian male/white female, Asian female/white male, hapa children
Year it was published: 1985
Kenjiro...the ambitious, handsome samurai, who fought the barriers of race and sin that stood between him and the beautiful white "barbarian" he loved.
Elinor...the stunning Englishwoman, caught in a spell of intrigue and violence, enchantment and ecstasy, torn between two ways of life- and love.
Ryo...Kenjiro's sister, who traded a traditional future for a forbidden love and an independent life.
Felix...the proper Victorian, forever loving women he could not truly possess, from the married woman who broe his child to the young Japanese girl he was forbidden to marry.
I couldn't capture or relate to any of the characters in the book. In beginning I liked Kenjiro and thought I would like this novel, but not my fate. Kenjiro could have best been an Englishman wearing yellow-face makeup. Short of having an affair with a Geisha, no Japanese personality or characteristics. He constantly apologized for what his countrymen had done, has none of Japanese grace that I expected one to have: his sister has an affair with someone and lied about having an aunt. Kenjiro, instead of replying that yes he has the aunt thus saving his sister face, instantly says "what aunt?" I doubt that someone from any Asian nation would be so blunt and all. For some odd reason I never liked Elinor. She strikes me as an incredibly spoiled child. Even though the characters were supposed to have been together for a few years before Elinor's confession, I couldn't feel anything, not even chemistry between them. To me it seemed that all of a sudden she wanted something and used Kenjiro for it. I couldn't understand the point or usefulness of Felix and his son Oliver, as well as others. Also, why are most women in there described as having blond hair? And the only brunette there described as ugly?
Honestly I couldn't understand why she wrote this book in the first place: make Asian men more desirable would be my guess. But please make use of the environment they are naturally in instead of the one you used!
Omniscient all seeing narrator seeing into all of the characters' thoughts. Constant changes. Somehow the author never meshed in characters with history, thus the characters tended to fall to the flat side and I couldn't get attached to them. I still don't understand how certain events shaped them or how it all happened because of them. I didn't understand the point of why so many years were skipped, and don't fall for the summary on the back of the book. Trust me, it's not as exciting as it sounds. The events, despite the potential, are boring, and happen too quickly. On some of the events I couldn't help but laugh, and they weren't funny!
She wrote another fictional novel titled Jade, otherwise known as Chinese Alice. Unfortunately I couldn't find any information about her.
I really didn't want to give a 1 star to a AM/WF novel, thus I feel sad. Yet I don't want to lie about my experience in reading this book, the many times I hit my head against an imaginary wall, thinking this novel culturally ridiculous as well as impossible in many ways. I think historically this book may be accurate, although first of all, it was Mongolians that tried to conquer Japan in 13th century, not Koreans (The Divine Wind, Kamikaze is referred to Mongolians, and Koreans were under Mongolian control during that time...) Although I admit lack of familiarity with Japanese culture because I've never been with anyone who is from Japan, but from studying Chinese and Korean cultures, there's a lot she has gotten wrong. The Japanese characters strike me as having yellow-face makeup instead of being authentic Japanese; I read Tale of Genji a while ago, and I understand that 800 years bring a lot of changes, but still...Japanese value harmony, thus their talk will be circular and careful trying to save face for others instead of being direct; also during the time confessing love was abhorrent, including public display of affection. I also expected there to be focus on nature and whatnot, maybe not Tale of Genji extent, but still perhaps Kenjiro reflecting some childhood memories or whatnot a lot more. This is a perfect example of how not to write a novel.
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.)