This captivating tale of one woman’s life and difficult path to Edo during the Shogun era reads like a novel, but is obviously the product of extensive research. Amy Stanley has beautifully recreated the experience of an “ordinary” woman, the kind of life story that is seldom recorded and rarely told.
Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
*Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography*
*Winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award*
*Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography*
A "captivating" (The Washington Post) work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo — the city that would become Tokyo — and a portrait of a city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.
The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother's. But after three divorces — and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family's approval — she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.
With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry's fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno's life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture — and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.
"A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy" (The Wall Street Journal), Stranger in the Shogun's City is "a vivid, polyphonic portrait of life in 19th-century Japan that] evokes the Shogun era with panache and insight" (National Review of Books).
"A carefully researched, elegantly crafted, boldly imaginative work of historical recreation. Amy Stanley, combining the roles of the historian as detective and the historian as storyteller, weaves together the tale of an ordinary yet extraordinary woman and a special city at the cusp of two ages. Stranger in the Shogun's City deserves a spot on the bookshelf near The Return of Martin Guerre, The Question of Hu, and Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace." Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
"An evocative and deeply researched portrait….Japanophiles and readers of women's history will be entranced." Publisher's Weekly
"Historian Stanley brings a deep knowledge of Japanese culture to a vibrant portrait of the Asian nation centered on the struggles of one defiant woman... an absorbing history of a vanished world." Kirkus
"Tsuneno belongs to a vanished world, but historian Stanley brings both her and the Japanese city of Edo back to life in this breathtaking work. This is an eye-opening account of an extraordinary ordinary life." Booklist
About the Author
Amy Stanley is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and two children, but Tokyo will always be her favorite city in the world.