Review: Shogun, James Clavell

Rating: 5 out of 5

This was not the first time I read ‘Shogun’, but unlike some other novels by Mr Clavell, I haven’t returned to it since then for some fifteen to twenty years. I’m pleased to say I can maintain my original impression of a very good book and a splendid story, as indeed the rise of the Tokugawa is (“Toranaga” in this book).

What do I like about this? It’s a window into a culture, with Blackthorne’s remarks about life in England at the same time acting as a balance to describe the church-led mess that was Medieval and post-Medieval Europe. One of the questions the reader can ask himself is why these amenities of civilization are not taken up by the other surviving crew of his team who in their blindness and anger are more a nuisance to the Pilot than anything else.

The historical events are a description of the lead-up in 1600 to the effective creation of the Tokugawa Shogunate. There’re a fair bit of amendments that are done here for the sake of the story, but this is to make the story simpler and easier to understand, as well as to give the pilot more opportunity for screen time – as . One of the things to point out would be that Tokugawa Ieyasu (LordToranaga) was very well aware of gunfire and regiments of gunners, perhaps however without genuine European training.

What I don’t like? The love story, both very unlikely and unnecessary, doesn’t really make itself necessary, though I guess that baby characters’ rivalries center around this element. It would nevertheless have been nicer to do without, because in the end we are left with a polite fiction that everyone knew about and no one said anything, which of course is one of the author’s desires to convey.

Will I pick the book up again? Who knows, but why not at some distant point.

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