The Courtesan and the Samurai
Hana is a true Samurai wife, enduring humiliation and beatings at the hands of her husband without complaint. Her first duty is loyalty. Then civil war breaks out in Japan, her husband goes off to fight and Hana’s duty now is to survive. Fleeing from enemy soldiers, she finds herself alone and friendless in the Yoshiwara, the famous pleasure quarter of Tokyo. There Hana vanishes and Hanaogi, the beautiful and talented courtesan, emerges in her place.
Hana is resigned to her fate until the day she meets Yozo. He’s a fugitive soldier, evading capture by hiding in the only place that is beyond the law, the Yoshiwara. He promises to always protect Hana, even if that means choosing her above his friends and comrades. Together they might escape, but Yozo bears a terrible secret about Hana’s husband, and this knowledge might put both their lives at risk.
The Courtesan and the Samurai is a corking read. It captures the essence of Japan’s pleasure quarters in full exotic detail. The colours, smells, exploitation, eroticism and lurking violence are vividly depicted. Equally, the accompanying scenes of the horror of the civil war are also brilliantly portrayed. Each seems all the more real for being so intricately interwoven. Every character is beautifully drawn too, from the main players to the lowly walk-on roles.
Lesley Downer has written a wonderful novel full of fact, fiction, fear and fantasy. If you like your love stories epic, then this will surely hit the mark.