When my book club made it’s selections year ago, we decided to include the first two books of James Clavell’s asian saga. Shōgun was well-known, having been a best-seller when it was released in 1976.
The novel takes place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. John Blackthorne is the pilot of a galley ship, that made it’s way across the Pacific Ocean and landed in Japan. Initially, it looks as though Blackthorne and his crew are doomed. The warlords don’t take kindly to strangers, and their trading connections with the Portuguese, along with the spread of Catholicism, mean that English Blackthorne and his Dutch seafarers are the enemy.
I love historical fiction, and assumed this book could fall into that category. Trust me, it doesn’t. They are so many inaccuracies, I could write a 20 page thesis paper on them. However, I decided to take the story for what it was, and treat the “history” as if it were pure fiction. By doing that, I was able to appreciate a master story-teller at his finest. The book was very long – over 1100 pages, but the story had all the elements to capture your interest: suspense, intrigue, war, treachery, love and sex. My only other complaint was that sometimes I had trouble getting the characters straight. All those unfamiliar Japanese names were hard to remember. Also, as Anjin-san (the Japanese name for Blackthorne) learned the language, more and more comments were actually in Japanese. And I couldn’t translate.
Still, I enjoyed the book, and look forward to the next in the series.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1976