Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Samurai Sauce: THE 47 RONIN STORY by John Allyn

47 Ronin by John Allyn
What a way to NOT start a New Year. It is the first half of the first month of 2014 and despite my hopes that this would be a big year for me and my reads, it has kicked off with a real let down.

I have seen 47 Ronin pop up in my friends' reading lists for a couple of years. I always thought it was a Young Adult book and avoided it as I only read adult fiction.
 Then recently, I was looking for a book with an Asian Medieval (or near enough to it) flavour to suggest as a monthly read in my book group. I researched 47 Ronin and could not actually find anything anywhere that implied it was a young adult book. I am not sure now why I always thought that it was. I have my suspicions that perhaps it was via word of mouth. Someone must have told me that it was. It wouldn't surprise me if that were the case, because if there is any book that suits the title young adult more, it is this book.

It isn't that it is a story about children, don't assume that, it is more about the way it is written. It is simple, lacking in depth. In fact it did not surprise me to learn that the author was an editor in the television and motion picture industries and then a pictorial censor in the army later on. There is something about the way this story is written that reflects a mind that is used to cutting the fat and censoring. Only over editing can explain why this book suffered so from a complete literary devolution.

The characters were strangers to me. I did not know any of them in the entire book. Could barely tell them apart because the author attached no uniqueness to them.
The setting and environment, where depth of descriptions and cultural laminations should have been laid one atop the other to form a contextual feel (an important facet of historical fiction), were completely missing.
The best way for me to describe the lack of layers to this story is to say that I do not believe the author knew enough about the Japanese mind to write this book. He knows enough about Japan and its languages due to his career specialities, to think about writing a book about the Japanese, but I still think he has had some trouble working out who the Japanese male is. Or at least, who the Japanese warrior is.

The writing itself was not so bad. No glaring offenses there as far as technical skill goes. It was just basic and uncomplicated writing.

I cannot say if there are better historical fiction books out there which will offer a better viewing platform to the culture of the Japanese Samurai, as I have not read many on the subject, but I think you should probably try 47 Ronin. It may have more appeal to others than it did to me. I am fussy when it comes to writing and adult fiction. I expect a certain standard of characterisation and scene development. Not everyone has these same standards.

Apologies that I have not gone into what the book is about or who the characters were. To be brutally honest, I have no idea what the book was about and who the characters were. The whole thing was a mystery to me. I couldn't get into it or appreciate what was going on.
I did not know who was who or which way was up and that reflects in my rating for this book. 2 stars out of 5.

- MM

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