The Last Concubine
The Last Concubine is set in Japan in the mid-1860s at the time of the Civil War, the coming of Westerners and a way of life which ended virtually overnight – for ever. Sachi, brought up as a peasant girl in the Kiso mountains, is taken to the Women’s Palace at Edo when only eleven years old. The supreme being in Japan is the Emperor, a god-like figure who is rarely seen but the power rests with the Shogun, currently Iemochi whom the Princess Kana is to marry. Sachi is trained in the ways of the Palace and then, on the night before Iemochi’s last journey to Kyoto, is given to him as a concubine. While in Kyoto, Iemochi becomes ill and dies, and from then on Sachi’s world begins to change.
This is a powerful story that grips the reader and keeps the pages turning. Although Sachi herself is fictitious, the time in which she lived is very real, as is the Shogun, Iomechi and the Princess Kazu who became his wife. Many of the characters portrayed in the book did inhabit the Women’s Palace at Edo. The story graphically depicts a world which no longer exists but which is very much alive in the pages of this book. Recommended.