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Sword and Blossom: A British Officer's Enduring Love for a Japanese Womanby Peter Pagnamenta
Synopses & Reviews
In 1904, when thirty-four-year-old British Army captain Arthur Hart-Synnot was sent to Japan to learn the language of his country's new ally, romance was the furthest thing from his mind. At least five generations of the Hart family had served in the British Army-his father, grandfather, and uncle had risen to the rank of general, and the ambitious young officer expected to keep up the tradition. Arriving in Tokyo on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War,
Arthur met Masa Suzuki at the Officers' Club and tested out his first few words of Japanese on her. Masa had grown up in the working-class section of Tokyo, amid small-shop keepers and craftsmen. The sixth in a family of seven, she had left school at age fourteen to work in a shop. She was a dutiful Japanese daughter-when she helped her mother serve meals, she would kneel at a respectful distance while her father and brothers ate. Arthur and Masa fell in love quickly and powerfully. Throwing convention to the wind, they lived together in Tokyo until orders came for Arthur to return to England. For the next decade and a half, the two unlikely soul mates attempted to make a life together, testing the limits of racial and cultural tolerance in their countries and in themselves. Separated for years at a time, they stayed in touch through long, deeply affectionate letters they wrote to each other in Japanese. The great love affair sustained Arthur through some of the most horrific battles of the First World War, and even when the relationship came to an end, in a way that neither could have foreseen, they continued their correspondence.
They wrote to each other through the troubled interwar period, as Arthur's family estate was caughtup in a civil war in Ireland, as the great earthquake of 1923 ravaged Tokyo, as the militarists seized control of Japan and took the country into a brutal invasion of China, and finally, in a bitter twist of fate, as the once-allied Britain and Japan faced off against each other in the Second World War. Her letters to him were lost, but she saved every one of his, more than eight hundred in total. The authors use this treasure trove of letters to describe a story of great love and great loss and of destinies etched amid the conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century.
Sword and Blossom tells the tragic true story of an extraordinary love affair that began when a young Army officer fell in love with a Japanese woman in the early years of the twentieth century. Based on a treasure trove of more than eight hundred letters, it chronicles Arthur Hart- Synnot and Masa Suzuki's attempts to make a life together despite long periods of separation, racial prejudice, and political turbulence. Their doomed relationship, like that of their countries, was part of a confused age of extremes and contradictions, of violence and beauty, and of destinies etched out amid the conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century.
This real-life "Madame Butterfly" is the tragic love story of an aristocraticBritish officer and a young Japanese woman in turn-of-the-20th-century Tokyo.368 pp.
About the Author
...a fascinating narrative that spans decades . . . you'll be stirred (Entertainment Weekly)The essence of this inexpressibly beautiful story will remain with me, I believe, for the rest of my life. (Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman)
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