Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Review: The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz

I'm not really sure why I read this book. Wait. Let me clarify that. What I mean is that I usually can remember how I heard about a book or how it was recommended to me. But, this book - nada. That in and of itself is weird, but beside the point, I guess. Nevertheless, it bugs me that I can't figure it out.

In any case, The Commoner takes place in 1959 Japan and is the story of how Haruko, a young woman from a good family, comes to marry the Crown Prince. She is the first commoner to ever marry into the mysterious and cloistered world of the monarchy. What makes this union so remarkable, aside from the fact that Haruko is a commoner, is that she and the Prince marry for love. Unfortunately, their love is not enough to overcome the restrictions and hostility of the insular world behind the palace walls. Haruko is never fully accepted by either the Prince's mother or her cronies. After giving birth to a son, which is basically all she is really needed for, Haruko literally loses her voice and descends into a deep depression. Slowly she recovers and when her son becomes a man and marries a commoner, Haruko decides to take the girl under her wing and show her the kindness that was so cruelly withheld from Haruko herself.

Before reading this book, I didn't realize that the premise of this story is based on the lives of the current Empress of Japan, Michiko and her daughter-in-law, Princess Masako. I only learned that later when I was reading other reviews of this book. I must say that I was very disappointed in this book. The characters were very two-dimensional and I was never able to fully engage with any of them or the story as whole. It's really too bad, because I think this could have been a very interesting book. Overall, the plot felt very flat and dull. It's not terrible, just bland. Unfortunately, it's not a book I would recommend. What a shame, it had such great potential.


Tammy Howard said...

Oh, indeed! As I was reading your synopsis I thought that sounded like an interesting story.

Too bad.

Anita said...

I'm sad to hear it didn't live up to it's potential.
What did you think of the Patterson book, "Against Medical Advice" I have in on my shelf and wanted to know your thoughts.


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