Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Commoner by John Burnham Scwhartz

The Commoner is the story of a young woman, who is of no aristocratic blood, that marries the Crown Prince of Japan in 1959. This may seem mundane today.  After all, just within the last few years, we've watched the Prince of Spain marry a woman who had alreay been married once before, and most recently Prince William of England married Kate Middleton, and Prince Albert of Monaco, too, married what we refer to as a 'commoner'.  But in 1959 Japan, this was unprecedented.  It had never before occurred in their recorded history.
We meet Haruko, who is the well-educated, only child of a succesful sake brewing, businessman father, and mother. We come to know her as a young woman, we are with her when she first meets the Crown Prince during a tennis match they play against one another, we are with her when she becmes a newlywed, and eventually when she becomes Empress of Japan. Through it all she opens up her heart to the reader.

When the prince first meets Haruko, he is at once drawn to her and a kind of courtship ensues.  But when the prince sends his most trusted advisor to the home of her parents to ask for her hand, her beloved parents respectfully decline the great honor.  They realize only too well what their beloved daughter would be up against if she were to marry into the Imperial family and they fear for her and do not want to lose her, as they surely would.  For once married, she would not be allowed to visit her family. Their fears were, unfotunately, well-founded.  Once married she must navigate the treacherous depths of the Imperial Sea, which holds fast to tradition and does not welcome newcomers, let alone a common one. This book sweeps you into Haruko's life. It is beautifully written. I highly recommend it.

I'm rating this: The Result of a Master Storyteller

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