Synopses & Reviews
The role of the Japanese woman in modern society still retains many of the characteristics that it had in the late eighteenth century, when this novel takes place. In those days, the life of a woman, whether married or single, was one of unending drudgery and toil. Reward or recognition came only indirectly, through the success of the male members of the family.
Thus, this novel is really two stories: on the one hand, the successful medical career of Hanaoka Seishu, the first doctor in the world to perform surgery for breast cancer under a general anesthetic; on the other hand, the lives of his wife and his mother, who supported him with stoic resignation, even to the extent of finally volunteering to be used as guinea pigs in his experiments.
Kae, the wife, joins the household of the local doctor as the bride of his son, Hanaoka Seishu, who is still away pursuing his medical studies in Kyoto. Her mother-in-law, Otsugi, is both beautiful and extremely proud of the tradition of the doctor's family. Though their relationship is one of affection at first, it declines into tension and eventually into bitter competitiveness and hatred, fostered by the claustrophobic social customs of the time. The two women-the wife who struggles to adapt to a new household and gain the affection of her unfamiliar husband, and the over possessive mother-in-law dedicated to the fulfillment of her son's ambitions-vie with one another to serve one man. Kae suffers the most, for the new anesthetic that the doctor tries on her has devastating results.
Readers of The Doctor's Wife will find a tender and compassionate tale about a woman of great strength and courage, as well as an impelling account of Japanese society and the role of women in it.
"A deft and subtle writer." -The New York Times
"A powerful portrait of two strong-willed women in a society almost totally dominated by men." -Oriental Economist
"An excellent story." -Choice
"A poignant human account." -Augusta Chronicle
"Written with psychological precision and economy." -Library Journal
This is a novelization of the life and struggles of the first doctor in the world to perform successfuly surgery for breast cancer. The professional battle to overcome the scourge of breast cancer is mirrored by the surgeon's tempestuous duels with his domineering female family members.
About the Author
SAWAKO ARIYOSHI was born in 1931 in Wakayama City. As a student she developed a deep interest in the theater, both modern drama and traditional Kabuki, and her own plays are widely performed in Japan. Many of her novels have also been adapted for the stage, the cinema, and television.
Ariyoshi first rose to prominence in the 1950s as a writer of short stories, but has since built an impressive reputation as a novelist dealing with crucial social issues. Among her themes have been the problems faced by women in the traditional Japanese household (Hanaoka seishu no tsuma, 1967, translated as "The Doctor's Wife"), racial segregation in the United States (Hishoku, 1964), and environmental pollution (Fukugo-osen, 1975). Her Kokotsu no hito (The Twilight Years) was published in 1972 and sold over a million copies in less than a year.
Translations of her books have appeared throughout the world and include a French translation of The Doctor's Wife, which was a bestseller in France in 1981; The River Ki; The Twilight Years; Her Highness Princess Kazu, awarded the prestigious Mainichi Cultural Prize in 1979; and Kabuki Dancer.
Ariyoshi died in 1984.