Friday, January 22, 2010
2-in-1: Sacred hearts by Sarah Dunant & The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Sacred Hearts is my second Dunant's novel and it was also my attempt at liking Ms. Dunant's writing. I was sorely disappointed with The Birth of Venus mainly because I relied on all the glorious reviews and expected a masterpiece. As it turned out, I barely managed to finish the book. I took on a different approach as I prepared myself for Sacred Hearts. I avoided reading reviews, especially the 5 or 4 starred ones, and assumed that it would be not so great instead of a read of a lifetime. I am not sure whether it was this strategy of starting at the bottom or if Sacred Hearts was simply better written, but I was this time pleasantly surprised. The story was quite intriguing, it all took place in a convent full of women who probably were put there against their will and taught to accept their fates. The historical background and Ms. Dunant's dedication made me appreciate the whole novel that much more. The book is dedicated to all the women that had been imprisoned in convents and separated from the outside world for no crimes of theirs really. It is a rather slow reading but then again, I don't think it ever were supposed to be a plot and action driven novel. There is an intriguing plot in there but the most interesting part is what an impact one girl can make on all others around her.
I especially liked the character of Suora Zuana, this intelligent and skilled in the art of medicine woman whose only misfortune was that she was born in the time when women weren't granted the freedom to seek out their own professions or expand on their interest and passions. Yet she managed to make something out of her life, even if it's spent in a convent. I say if you appreciate more of a literary historical fiction when more patience needs to be involved, you'll definitely appreciate Sacred Hearts.
I enjoy Asian fiction and was very excited to read about yet another figure in the history of China and Japan that I previously had had no idea about. The verdict: I could not have been disappointed any more. I thoughts I was going to read about this strong willed woman striving for independence in a society that treated females as a species below males in all aspects. Ms. Lindley wanted to show that despite what history's opinion of Yoshiko was, she was not a thoroughly bad person. I am not sure what measures were taken to make us readers see this princess spy in a forgiving light. All I saw was a corrupted woman who had sex with pretty much everyone that came her way. It was actually quite disgusting, especially Yoshiko's attitude to all the men that used and abused her. She thought all the time she was the one using her femininity for her advantage. Well, she wasn't. I was completely put off by this nymphomaniac person who destroyed everything and everyone in her way just to get what she wanted. She kept saying throughout the novel that her one true love was Japan but I just failed to see it as anything else other than an excuse for a more expensive form of prostitution.
I am no bigot, I am fine with sex scenes but what upset me the most is how Yoshiko's sex addiction is being justified as simply her means to live the life on her terms. I am just not sure that compromising her dignity was worth the false sense of independence, considering what she got in the end.