Unfortunately, I only made it through pages or so before realizing that my reading pace was much too slow. Back then, it probably would have taken me a full year of periodic reading to finish the book. Also similar was the unpredictability of both works. The result was that the reader learned how little the culture of the time thought of killing. Basically, anyone could happily or not die at any time and there were many shocking twists.
The title was given by the Emperor, who was considered divine and lived a largely secluded life. Becoming Shogun meant that one was the head of the military and essentially a dictator. Instead, there was a ruling council of daimyo, top leaders from different regions across Japan. The Taiko, a former leader with similar stature in title to Shogun, had recently died and his son was still too young to take his place.
The story was set around the year and it was based on real-life exploits involving various political and military clashes of the period in Japan. He and the handful of men who also survived from the ship were taken prisoner, their situation seemingly hopeless.
To simply stay alive, Blackthorne used bluffs involving the threat of a coming fleet. Of course, there was no fleet.
One would almost need a flow chart to keep track of the various Japanese political power players. Blackthorne initially encountered Omi, an up-and-coming local ruler.
If I Stay Analysis
The ship survivors went from being well-treated guests in the region to having to survive together in a dank pit. He knew that these weapons could be of value in increasing his station in life. The two would never again be on good terms. Yabo was a slippery character who would eventually go one step too far in playing both sides of any conflict for his own benefit.
Book Vs. Movie: If I Stay
His character resolution and how it tied back to Omi was memorable. Blackthorne and his assets were turned over to Hiro, who eventually took Blackthorne to meet Toranaga.
Blackthorne would then spend the majority of the book separated from the rest of his crew. Toranaga was in the midst of a power struggle for rule of Japan with his rival Ishido.
Shogun book sequel to if i stay
The two were part of the ruling council and both were cutting deals with peers who were being pressured to keep or switch alliances. Communications between different factions or individuals usually occurred via pigeon-delivered messages, often in code.
Clavell would repeatedly to the motif of Toranga hunting with hawks, particularly at the end. Toranaga would spend the entire book continually putting his enemies off balance and buying himself time. He would use that time to let situations further develop and to think of a way out of a particular predicament. The resulting power plays frequently revolved around quietly taking hostages and creating Cold War-like standoffs. Blackthorne eventually rose in power to become a samurai and hatamoto direct advisor to Toranaga.
As an aside, earthquakes were portrayed as the most destructive forces in Japan during the era. This was due to possible fire outbreak as a result of burning lamps and similar fire-based items being tipped into flammable materials.
“Shogun” by James Clavell – Finishing a Journey
Most structures built with very simple materials so that they could easily be rebuilt or repaired after earthquakes or a typhoon. Throughout the political gamesmanship, Blackthorne remained motivated by money and his own well-being.
Most of the non-Japanese characters that Blackthorne encountered were in some way related to this alliance, the first Europeans with a major presence in Japan. As part of that trade relationship, Japan had been opened to Christianity. As some Japanese became Christian, their beliefs complicated their loyalties.
Christians also served as translators for the higher-ranking Japanese, positions that put them into influential roles and that provided valuable intelligence information regarding happenings in Japan. Where Blackthorne was able to prevail against them was in publicizing the fact that a rivalry existed between the Catholics who were the Christians in Japan and Protestant Christians.
The Japanese rulers already seemed wary of the potential for European expansionism affecting their island and Blackthorne planted seeds in their minds regarding plans by the Catholic church to assert more control over Japan. In fact, Blackthorne dramatically saved Rodrigues despite the man having tried to kill him during a storm at sea along the Japanese coast. Blackthorne would eventually learn enough Japanese to begin communicating in the native tongue.
Shading in all of the character interactions were details regarding daily life amongst those in Japan that proved incredibly fascinating. Clavell covered just about anything that one might have thought to ask about daily life in Japan during the time period in question.
Food, religion, and even bathroom habits were discussed. Above all though, the concept of honor and a delicate protocol of communication between those in the ruling classes was observed.
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While ascending in importance amongst the power players, Blackthorne would learn about the importance of karma and modesty. Not surprisingly, swords and the reputation of certain blades were also frequently mentioned. These women were, in turn: His official consort Fujiko, his translator and secret lover Mariko, and a high-end prostitute named Kiku. Fujiko was a young widow appointed to take charge of the household that Toranaga established for Blackthorne. Mariko was a troubled woman but greatly respected samurai who had become a Christian.
She primarily served as a translator who could speak several European languages. This made her the wheel at the center of much of the story, as she frequently connected Blackthorne to the major power players. She had a husband who mistreated her named Buntaro and a son with a deformed hand. Rumors of the affair spread, but they were not believed with certainly by the top leaders.
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One notable prostitute arrangement took place for Blackthorne with Kiku, a first-rank prostitute. As part of the deal for Kiku, Gyoko gained approval from Toranaga for a plan to centralize prostitution and also to introduce the Geisha profession as an alternative to prostitution.
Also of note was Ochiba, the widow of the deceased Taiko and mother to the young heir Yaemon. She was set up as a bit of a black widow spider but readers would later get insights into her situation. To begin with, the heir was actually her child via a peasant.
Marriage to Ochiba would later be used as a chip in the overall political dealings, although she would eventually reveal what seemed to be a legitimate attraction to Toranaga. Something that might seem unusual to modern readers was how Clavell frequently switched character perspectives, sometimes within a single scene. Throughout the course of the story, Blackthorne would unknowingly impregnate two of the women, but what would essentially be two abortions by those women kept those children from coming to birth.
MORE BY JAMES CLAVELL
Somewhat redeeming the character of Blackthorne was the impressive job that Clavell did in making him the cultural proxy for the reader. There was a realization of just how far readers had come in getting to appreciate Japanese culture when Blackthorne was reunited with his other surviving crew members. The political situation finally began to wind down in the last three hundred or so pages. Amid a betrayal by Yabu that allowed ninja assassins to raid the area where the hostages were being held, Blackthorne had to fight to protect Mariko and several other hostages.
Only at the very end of the book readers learned that Toranaga did, in fact, wish to become Shogun. Despite his denials of that goal throughout the story, it was his ultimate ambition and he would indeed achieve it. Providing those details in a more thorough manner would have required a sequel book and I suspect that such a book would have ultimately proved unnecessary. This was a rough portrayal of the real-life tale of William Adams, on whom Blackthorne was based.
Toranaga was based on Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became Shogun in Christianity in particular would begin a period of diminished influence and prevalence in Japan. It was light on action, but it was more interesting for having focused on the political maneuvering of the various characters.
That story focus helped the book to more-easily translate into a widely-seen television mini-series adaptation. I thought, until the last pages, that you was a marvellous genius.
I personally feel angry with you Mr. Clavell, as I was ready to buy a sequel that never exists, and probably will never exist. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.