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The Teahouse Fire

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The Teahouse Fire Cover

ISBN13: 9781594489303
ISBN10: 1594489300
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A sweeping debut novel drawn from a history shrouded in secrets about two women — one American, one Japanese — whose fates become entwined in the rapidly changing world of late-nineteenth-century Japan.

When nine-year-old Aurelia Bernard takes shelter in Kyoto's beautiful and mysterious Baishian teahouse after a fire one night in 1866, she is unaware of the building's purpose. She has just fled the only family she's ever known: after her French immigrant mother died of cholera in New York, her abusive missionary uncle brought her along on his assignment to Christianize Japan. She finds in Baishian a place that will open up entirely new worlds to her — and bring her a new family. It is there that she discovers the woman who will come to define the next several decades of her life, Shin Yukako, daughter of Kyoto's most important tea master and one of the first women to openly practice the sacred ceremony known as the Way of Tea.

For hundreds of years, Japan's warriors and well-off men would gather in tatami-floored structures — teahouses — to participate in an event that was equal parts ritual dance and sacramental meal. Women were rarely welcome, and often expressly forbidden. But in the late nineteenth century, Japan opened its doors to the West for the first time, and the seeds of drastic changes that would shake all of Japanese society, even this most civilized of arts, were planted.

Taking her for the abandoned daughter of a prostitute rather than a foreigner, the Shin family renames Aurelia Urako and adopts her as Yukako's attendant and surrogate younger sister. Yukako provides Aurelia with generosity, wisdom, and protection as she navigates a culture that is not accepting of outsiders. From her privileged position at Yukako's side, Aurelia aids in Yukako's crusade to preserve the tea ceremony as it starts to fall out of favor under pressure of intense Westernization. And Aurelia herself is embraced and rejected as modernizing Japan embraces and rejects an era of radical change.

An utterly absorbing story told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.

Review:

"In 1865, nine-year-old Aurelia Caillard is taken from New York to Japan by her missionary uncle Charles while her ailing mother dies at home. Charles soon vanishes in a fire (not the one of the title), leaving Aurelia orphaned and alone in Kyoto. She is taken in by Yukako, the teenage daughter of the Shin family, master teachers of temae, or tea ceremony. Aurelia, narrating as an elderly woman, tells of living as Yukako's servant and younger sister, and how what begins as grateful puppy love for Yukako matures over years into a deeply painful unrequited obsession. Against a backdrop of a convulsively Westernizing Japan, Avery brings the conflicts of modernization into the teahouse, and into Aurelia and Yukako's beds, where jealousy over lovers threatens to tear them apart. In one memorable instance, Yukako, struggling to bring money in for the family, crosses class lines and gives temae lessons to a geisha in exchange for lessons on the shamisen, a seductive (and potentially profitable) string instrument. Eventually stuck in a painful marriage, Yukako labors to adapt the ancient tea ceremony to the changing needs of the modern world, resulting in a breathtaking confrontation. Avery, making her debut, has crafted a magisterial novel that is equal parts love story, imaginative history and bildungsroman, a story as alluring as it is powerful." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Those who like plot twists will relish the epic cast of characters who help and hinder Aurelia and Yukako as they mature." Library Journal

Review:

"Avery adroitly conveys the intricacies of the tea ceremony...and the subtle ways in which it was transformed as Japan moved from a Shogun society to one ruled by the emperor." Booklist

Review:

"Reading Ellis Avery's The Teahouse Fire, for me, is like attending seasons of elegant tea parties — each one resplendent with character and drama. Delicious." Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior

Synopsis:

“Like attending seasons of elegant tea parties—each one resplendent with character and drama. Delicious.”—Maxine Hong Kingston

The story of two women whose lives intersect in late-nineteenth-century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history—Japan as it opens its doors to the West. It was a period when wearing a different color kimono could make a political statement, when women stopped blackening their teeth to profess an allegiance to Western ideas, and when Japans most mysterious rite—the tea ceremony—became not just a sacramental meal, but a ritual battlefield.

We see it all through the eyes of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by the Shin family, proprietors of a tea ceremony school, after their daughter, Yukako, finds her hiding on their grounds. Aurelia becomes Yukakos closest companion, and they, the Shin family, and all of Japan face a time of great challenges and uncertainty. Told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.

Synopsis:

The story of two women whose lives intersect in late nineteenth century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history-Japan as it opens its doors to the West. Told through the enchanting and unforgettable voice of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by proprietors of a tea ceremony school, this is "a magisterial novel that is equal parts love story, imaginative history and bildungsroman, a story as alluring as it is powerful" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

About the Author

Ellis Avery studied Japanese tea ceremony for five years in New York and Kyoto, and now teaches creative writing at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, Publishers Weekly, Kyoto Journal, LIT, and Pacific Reader, as well as onstage at New York's Expanded Arts Theater.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

CB, June 14, 2007 (view all comments by CB)
The Teahouse Fire is a wide-ranging, smart and sexy tale that weaves a compelling personal journey through political changes and upheaval in late 19th century Japan. Avery's novel is a coming of age story, a fascinating lesson in the art of tea ceremony, and the story of how one family is changed by the arrival in Japan of the western world.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(63 of 114 readers found this comment helpful)
lovingreader, January 16, 2007 (view all comments by lovingreader)
The action in The Teahouse Fire takes us to Kyoto in the 1860s, a time of huge change in Japan. I especially loved hearing an insider's story about tea house ceremony, delicately balanced with just enough historical background. All the characters are beautifully and completely drawn.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(70 of 132 readers found this comment helpful)
Rachael, January 6, 2007 (view all comments by Rachael)
This book is perfect for people who loved Arthur Golden's novel MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. The Teahouse Fire is very similiar in concept and people wanting a taste of geisha life and culture will love this book. I highly reccomend this beautiful uplifting novel! It is a must read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(68 of 143 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594489303
Author:
Avery, Ellis
Publisher:
Riverhead Trade
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Americans
Subject:
Japanese tea ceremony
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20071204
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
9.3 x 6.28 x 1.43 in 1.3 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Teahouse Fire Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 480 pages PENGUIN PUTNAM TRADE - English 9781594489303 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In 1865, nine-year-old Aurelia Caillard is taken from New York to Japan by her missionary uncle Charles while her ailing mother dies at home. Charles soon vanishes in a fire (not the one of the title), leaving Aurelia orphaned and alone in Kyoto. She is taken in by Yukako, the teenage daughter of the Shin family, master teachers of temae, or tea ceremony. Aurelia, narrating as an elderly woman, tells of living as Yukako's servant and younger sister, and how what begins as grateful puppy love for Yukako matures over years into a deeply painful unrequited obsession. Against a backdrop of a convulsively Westernizing Japan, Avery brings the conflicts of modernization into the teahouse, and into Aurelia and Yukako's beds, where jealousy over lovers threatens to tear them apart. In one memorable instance, Yukako, struggling to bring money in for the family, crosses class lines and gives temae lessons to a geisha in exchange for lessons on the shamisen, a seductive (and potentially profitable) string instrument. Eventually stuck in a painful marriage, Yukako labors to adapt the ancient tea ceremony to the changing needs of the modern world, resulting in a breathtaking confrontation. Avery, making her debut, has crafted a magisterial novel that is equal parts love story, imaginative history and bildungsroman, a story as alluring as it is powerful." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Those who like plot twists will relish the epic cast of characters who help and hinder Aurelia and Yukako as they mature."
"Review" by , "Avery adroitly conveys the intricacies of the tea ceremony...and the subtle ways in which it was transformed as Japan moved from a Shogun society to one ruled by the emperor."
"Review" by , "Reading Ellis Avery's The Teahouse Fire, for me, is like attending seasons of elegant tea parties — each one resplendent with character and drama. Delicious."
"Synopsis" by ,
“Like attending seasons of elegant tea parties—each one resplendent with character and drama. Delicious.”—Maxine Hong Kingston

The story of two women whose lives intersect in late-nineteenth-century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history—Japan as it opens its doors to the West. It was a period when wearing a different color kimono could make a political statement, when women stopped blackening their teeth to profess an allegiance to Western ideas, and when Japans most mysterious rite—the tea ceremony—became not just a sacramental meal, but a ritual battlefield.

We see it all through the eyes of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by the Shin family, proprietors of a tea ceremony school, after their daughter, Yukako, finds her hiding on their grounds. Aurelia becomes Yukakos closest companion, and they, the Shin family, and all of Japan face a time of great challenges and uncertainty. Told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.

"Synopsis" by ,
The story of two women whose lives intersect in late nineteenth century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history-Japan as it opens its doors to the West. Told through the enchanting and unforgettable voice of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by proprietors of a tea ceremony school, this is "a magisterial novel that is equal parts love story, imaginative history and bildungsroman, a story as alluring as it is powerful" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

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