The Samurai's Garden
by Gail Tsukiyama
St. Martin's Press
On the eve of the Second World War, a young Chinese man is sent to his family's summer home in Japan to recover from tuberculosis. He will rest, swim in the salubrious sea, and paint in the brilliant shoreside light. It will be quiet and solitary. But he meets four local residents - a lovely young Japanese girl and three older people. What then ensues is a tale that readers will find at once classical yet utterly unique. Young Stephen has his own adventure, but it is the unfolding story of Matsu, Sachi, and Kenzo that seizes your attention and will stay with you forever. Tsukiyama, with lines as clean, simple, telling, and dazzling as the best of Oriental art, has created an exquisite little masterpiece.
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1. The title of the novel obviously
alludes to Matsu's garden, but to whom else could the title refer as a
2. The garden acts as a center or
core of the novel. All three central characters (Stephen, Matsu, and Sachi) find some
sense of comfort in tending the garden. What are some of the metaphors for the garden and
how are they worked out in the novel?
3. Loneliness, solitude, and
isolation are all themes that permeate the novel throughout. How do the three central
characters' approaches to these feelings vary, resemble each other, and evolve?
4. It appears as though Stephen and
Sachi are somehow juxtaposed. How is this connection represented and developed?
5. How is the politically turbulent
time at which The Samurai's Garden takes place approached in the novel? Is it a
strongly political novel or does the world of Tamuri somehow defy and avoid the political
turmoil of the era?
6. How is Stephen and Keiko's
relationship represented? Examine it in relation to the courtships of the past--Kenzo and
Sachi, as well as Matsu and Sachi.
7. As the novel progresses, Stephen
stops longing to return to his home and in fact dreads having to leave Tamuri. What
provokes this change of heart? Also, how does this sentiment affect the ending of the
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"An engrossing richness of
The New York Times Book Review
"Tsukiyama brings a fluid,
smooth elegance to the complicated story she tells."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Tsukiyama's writing style has
a controlled flu- idity, that hints at explosive passions lurking beneath the surface....
A sensory experience."
Los Angeles Japanese Daily