Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Musashi Readalong...Part I...at last!

Musashi- An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era
by Eiji Yoshikawa
translated by Charles S. Terry
ISBN 978-0068598510, 970 pages

You know, in really life I am never late.
In BlogLand, such is not the case.
As a participant in the Musashi Readalong, hosted by the always amusing Jenners at Life...With Books, my first post should have been up on  October 2. The problem was, I did not start reading the book until last night.
Did I also mention that I am a World Class Procrastinator?

So last night, I lifted the Big Hulking Book, rested it on a pillow to bear some of the weight, and before you know it, I was lost in the world of the 17th century Japan and the exciting life of our hero Musashi. Why was I waiting?
I will not recap the plot again. If you have not yet, run right over to Jenners' post and give it a read. She does a great job of summing up the plot of Book 1-Earth.

Ok..maybe a brief rehash.

In the course of about 100 pages, 100 page turning pages, we meet our hero as he awakens, wounded, left for dead on a battle field littered with bodies. He and his friend are saved by a woman and her daughter who make their living stealing from the dead, the same friend who then abandons him to run off with the two women. He tries to return home, is set upon by the villagers (seems be was not that popular a fellow before he left and less so now), sought after by 200 soldiers in the hills where he hides, only to be captured by a Buddhist monk. And what a wonderful character that monk is...perhaps my favorite so far and I do hope that is not the last we see of him. Once again our hero escapes, with the help of his friend's, he of the battlefield, fiance, only to be captured once again by that pesky young monk and imprisoned for three years...which evolves into the positive turning point in his life. He emerges into the light of the sun with a new name and a new purpose...and ends part one abandoning that young woman who has literally waited by the bridge where they pledge to meet for three years.Wow...

I will admit that this book scared me a bit. It is big...and it is about 17th century Japan, the world of the samurai, not my usual read. It is filled with Japanese names and Japanese places, neither of which I am good at remembering...and it is big. But trust me, that is not an issue open you start reading. There are not that many characters presented at a time and each is so well drawn, so distinct, that it is easy to keep them straight. As to the length of the book, it is also not an issue. The entire Epic is divided into 7 Books and in turn each Book is divided into fairly short chapters, each perfect for a quick read. Which is only fitting because when the author wrote this book in the 1930's it was originally published in serial form.

The character of Miyamoto Musashi is a real historical figure, as, I understand, are many of the other characters and incidents in the book. Which makes it all the most interesting...and I am all for getting one's history through fiction whenever possible.

My take so far...an exciting page-turning story, totally readable and very well written, with great characters and the noble feeling that you are actually gaining some historical knowledge! I can't wait for the next part...and hopefully will read it and get my post up on time.


  1. In your defense, I did say "About October 2" so I don't think you are too late.

    I didn't know he published it in serial form ... but I could very much see that being the case. It does kind of read like that. And I loved the monk too ... it would be a shame if we don't see him again.

    So glad the book worked for you too!!! YAY!

  2. Takuan is my favourite character too.
    Wonderful reading and glad you're enjoying it too.


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!