Okei: A Girl from the Provinces
The old ways of the Shogunate dynasty in the late 1800s are coming to a violent end. Three Western Japanese clans have united to overthrow the present Shogun’s influence with the Emperor and are now about to wreak revenge on the Aizu community. At first Okei, the young daughter of a peasant worker, slowly realizes she has fallen in love with a local samurai warrior, Sanasuma Kingo, who in turn adores a fellow samurai widow. This follows after Okei travels to a part of Japan where the war has already begun and meets the foreigners Henry and Edward, two Dutch brothers who are supplying the enemy with the most up-to-date guns and cannons for the conflict already in process. Edward, thinking simple Japanese women are easy prey, physically accosts Okei, who is rescued at the last precarious moment by Henry, an honorable man who wants to marry one of her best friends.
Most of the novel concerns the complex relationships uniting and dividing the Aizu clan in their loyal service to the local feudal lord and the realization that his defeat means theirs as well. Okei spends hours and days dealing with her own shock of how little she knows of love and revolution. Traditional loyalties, manners and obedience are jettisoned by the fierce winds of warfare. Finally, Okei and several of her new and old acquaintances survive sure death by traveling to America, where they will form a Japanese community in Coloma, California.
Although the language earlier in the novel sometimes seem out of synch with the times, the remainder of the novel portrays a dynamic period in both Japan and California that will fascinate any reader who loves precise, well-researched historical fiction full of action and complex characters. Nicely done!