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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Commoner

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The Commoner Cover

ISBN13: 9780385515719
ISBN10: 0385515715
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

It is 1959 when Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman — a rising star in the foreign ministry — to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince. The consequences are tragic and dramatic.

Told in the voice of Haruko, meticulously researched and superbly imagined, The Commoner is the mesmerizing, moving, and surprising story of a brutally rarified and controlled existence at once hidden and exposed, and of a complex relationship between two isolated women who, despite being visible to all, are truly understood only by each other. With the unerring skill of a master storyteller, John Burnham Schwartz has written his finest novel yet.

Review:

"Schwartz bases his finely wrought fourth novel on the life of Empress Michiko of Japan, the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family. Haruko Tsuneyasu grows up in postwar rural Japan and studies at Sacred Heart University, where she excels — particularly and fatefully — at tennis, which provides her entre to the crown prince, whom she handily beats in an exhibition match. After more meetings on and off the court, the prince asks Haruko to marry him. Persuaded by their mutual attraction and by assurances that the break with tradition will usher in a modern era, Haruko ultimately agrees, against her father's wishes, to become the first commoner turned royal. But, as her father had feared, her freedom and ambition suffer under the stifling rituals of court life. Eventually, Haruko succumbs to the inescapable judgment of the empress and her entourage, falling mute after the birth of her son, Yasuhito. Though the narrative loses some of its life after Haruko marries — perhaps mirroring Haruko's experience within the palace walls — urgency returns after Haruko chooses a wife for Yasuhito; the marriage tests Haruko's dedication to the crown. Schwartz (Reservation Road) pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Writing about the Japanese imperial family can be risky business. Last year the publisher of the Japanese edition of 'Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne,' Ben Hills' biography of the current princess consort, dropped the book. A smaller Tokyo publisher picked it up but was unable to place ads for it in any major Japanese newspapers. Meanwhile, Hills received a letter signed by the... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"This story is as ethereal and sensual as a Japanese watercolor, as magical and dark as a fairy tale." Booklist

Review:

"With a strong narrative voice and well-researched historical background." Library Journal

Review:

"The details of life for upper-class Japanese during and after World War II are fascinating...but readers may be put off by the way Schwartz creates thoughts and feelings for his thinly veiled characterizations of living people. Not likely to go over well with the Japanese royals." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[F]inely wrought....Schwartz pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world." School Library Journal

Synopsis:

It is 1959 when Haruko marries the Crown Prince of Japan. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with consequences both tragic and dramatic.

About the Author

John Burnham Schwartz is the author of the novels Claire Marvel, Bicycle Days, and Reservation Road, which was made into a motion picture based on his screenplay, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Connelly. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and his writing has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times and The New Yorker. He lives with his wife and their son in Brooklyn, New York.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Sylvie, March 6, 2008 (view all comments by Sylvie)
Wow... what a novel!

I always wonder how certain male authors find the perfect voice to talk from and/or about women in different situations. This book is a GREAT example of this exact thing.

This is a layered story of past repeating into the present and putting into play events which will unfold in ways that have great repercussions.

Not since Memoirs of a Geisha have I been enthralled by a book about Japaneese traditions and protocol.

Beware that picking this book up will get you to loose a few days to your favorite reading chair!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(5 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780385515719
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Schwartz, John Burnham
Publisher:
Nan A. Talese
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Women
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Women -- Japan.
Copyright:
Publication Date:
January 2008
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.46x5.98x1.26 in. 1.18 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Commoner Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Random House - English 9780385515719 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Schwartz bases his finely wrought fourth novel on the life of Empress Michiko of Japan, the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family. Haruko Tsuneyasu grows up in postwar rural Japan and studies at Sacred Heart University, where she excels — particularly and fatefully — at tennis, which provides her entre to the crown prince, whom she handily beats in an exhibition match. After more meetings on and off the court, the prince asks Haruko to marry him. Persuaded by their mutual attraction and by assurances that the break with tradition will usher in a modern era, Haruko ultimately agrees, against her father's wishes, to become the first commoner turned royal. But, as her father had feared, her freedom and ambition suffer under the stifling rituals of court life. Eventually, Haruko succumbs to the inescapable judgment of the empress and her entourage, falling mute after the birth of her son, Yasuhito. Though the narrative loses some of its life after Haruko marries — perhaps mirroring Haruko's experience within the palace walls — urgency returns after Haruko chooses a wife for Yasuhito; the marriage tests Haruko's dedication to the crown. Schwartz (Reservation Road) pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "This story is as ethereal and sensual as a Japanese watercolor, as magical and dark as a fairy tale."
"Review" by , "With a strong narrative voice and well-researched historical background."
"Review" by , "The details of life for upper-class Japanese during and after World War II are fascinating...but readers may be put off by the way Schwartz creates thoughts and feelings for his thinly veiled characterizations of living people. Not likely to go over well with the Japanese royals."
"Review" by , "[F]inely wrought....Schwartz pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world."
"Synopsis" by , It is 1959 when Haruko marries the Crown Prince of Japan. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with consequences both tragic and dramatic.
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