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The heir to the magnificent English trading company, the Noble House…the direct descendant of the first Toranaga Shogun battling to usher his country into the modern age…a beautiful young French woman forever torn between ambition and desire…Their lives intertwine in an exotic land newly open to foreigners, gai-jin, torn apart by greed, idealism, and terrorism. Their passi The heir to the magnificent English trading company, the Noble House…the direct descendant of the first Toranaga Shogun battling to usher his country into the modern age…a beautiful young French woman forever torn between ambition and desire…Their lives intertwine in an exotic land newly open to foreigners, gai-jin, torn apart by greed, idealism, and terrorism. Their passions mingle with monarchs and diplomats, assassins, courtesans and spies. Their fates collide in James Clavell’s latest masterpiece set in nineteenth-century Japan–an unforgettable epic seething with betrayal and secrets, brutality and heroism, love and forbidden passions.…


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The heir to the magnificent English trading company, the Noble House…the direct descendant of the first Toranaga Shogun battling to usher his country into the modern age…a beautiful young French woman forever torn between ambition and desire…Their lives intertwine in an exotic land newly open to foreigners, gai-jin, torn apart by greed, idealism, and terrorism. Their passi The heir to the magnificent English trading company, the Noble House…the direct descendant of the first Toranaga Shogun battling to usher his country into the modern age…a beautiful young French woman forever torn between ambition and desire…Their lives intertwine in an exotic land newly open to foreigners, gai-jin, torn apart by greed, idealism, and terrorism. Their passions mingle with monarchs and diplomats, assassins, courtesans and spies. Their fates collide in James Clavell’s latest masterpiece set in nineteenth-century Japan–an unforgettable epic seething with betrayal and secrets, brutality and heroism, love and forbidden passions.…

30 review for Gai-Jin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”So easy to be swallowed up, by the weather and gardens, kind skies and tender rain, best music, poetry, exotic foods, abundant silks and clothes makers, exquisite carp and singing birds, the alabaster-skinned beauties of the court, and of Kyoto’s Floating World,...without a care in the world except to seek the next pleasure.” After conquering China, the traders of Europe are now focused on opening up trade relations with Japan. They are perched precariously on the edge of the Islands in a sm ”So easy to be swallowed up, by the weather and gardens, kind skies and tender rain, best music, poetry, exotic foods, abundant silks and clothes makers, exquisite carp and singing birds, the alabaster-skinned beauties of the court, and of Kyoto’s Floating World,...without a care in the world except to seek the next pleasure.” After conquering China, the traders of Europe are now focused on opening up trade relations with Japan. They are perched precariously on the edge of the Islands in a small town where ongoing negotiations with the Japanese are taking place. The traders have a loose alliance between themselves but also continue to jockey for the best opportunities. There is gold. There is coal. Fortunes could be made. The Struans are in Japan, represented by the heir apparent Malcolm. He is the descendent of the great Dirk Struan, who built a shipping empire out of nothing but his own grit, ambition, and strong will. Dirk, though long dead, is a constant presence in the lives of the family. Every decision they try to make is weighed and measured against the interpretative wisdom of the ghost of Dirk Struan. Malcolm’s father, Culum, son of Dirk, dies young from the stress and strain of being Tai-pan and from abusing himself with alcohol. Malcolm is not yet 21, the age set by Dirk that a man must reach to become Tai-pan. His mother, Tess (Brock) Struan, is the defacto Tai-pan until Malcolm can be formally sworn in. While on an outing with friends, Malcolm is attacked by ronin shishi Samurais and seriously wounded. This unleashes a storm of incriminations back and forth between the British representatives and the Japanese. The British navy are actually in port protecting the business interests of the traders. They are on the verge of a war with the Japanese, but cooler heads realize that they only have to wait for the Japanese to start fighting each other. There are two storylines: one follows the Gai-jin (foreign) community, and the other follows the political battle that is taking place among the Japanese. These stories become entwined as the Japanese are forced to do business with the Gai-jins because they need their cannon, rifles, and ammunition as they prepare for the internal struggle for power that is about to begin. Lord Toranaga Yoshi, Guardian of the Heir, is trying to be the king maker. The Shogun is a young boy, and the Emperor is a distant figure. The government is weak, and there are too many powerful, ambitious samurai who are ready to fill the power vacuum. Yoshi survives several assassination attempts just as he orders assassinations against his rivals. He makes alliances that he knows are a slender reed blowing in the wind. He needs Gai-jin weapons, and he needs them before his enemies can obtain them for themselves. Malcolm has become infatuated with the beautiful Angelique Richaud. He is recovering from his wounds and frustrated that he cannot be the man he once was. ”Now, watching her dancing, center of a universal admiration, and lust, breasts in large part fashionably revealed, slender ankles enticing eyes to seek further under the billowing hoops of apricot silk, he felt himself hardening. Thank God for that, he thought, much of his rage evaporating.” Every man who spends a moment in her presence is in lust with her. The men, among themselves, refer to her as “Holy Titties.” She has a secret that could spoil her plans to marry Malcolm, and this brings her under the control of ”Me, André Édouard Poncin, servant of France, spymaster, killer, expert on the vileness of human nature, me the great cynic, in an instant I had fallen in love. Madness! But true.” From all descriptions Angelique is beautiful, but it reminds me of the line from the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot when it is explained to the Tina Fey character that in New York she might be a 6, but in Afghanistan she is a 10. So the question remains, is Angelique a 10 in Paris or is she a 10 just on the shores of Japan? The Gai-jin’s, coming from much more oppressive countries in Europe, are enamored with the freedom with which the Japanese conduct themselves sexually. ”There’s no such thing as sin in Japan, original sin, any kind of sin.” The men visit the brothels regularly, and much of the business conducted in this book between the Japanese and the Gai-jin are transacted in the whorehouses. Many of the men have permanent concubines, as well. Their lust is a source of exploitation for the Japanese. The Japanese prostitutes, who work in places with such enticing names as The Floating World, are disappointed with sex with the Gai-jin men. The men are only interested in first position, commonly referred to as missionary style. These women, well versed in every conceivable variation of sex, never get a chance to show the skills they have been taught or to have the opportunity to introduce the men to Baiting the Hen, Cherry Blossom Time, Near and Far, Over the Dragon, Springtime Planting, or Stealing the Honey. Unfortunately, James Clavell does not offer definitions or explanations for what each of these intriguingly named acts would entail. I appreciated the excitement that was created in the community when one of the men obtained something more precious than gold. ”I’ve an advance copy of the last chapter of Great Expectations.” While recovering from his wounds, Malcolm is reading The Murders at the Rue Morgue. Clavell always expresses the importance of books in people’s lives. I long for the days when books ruled supreme before the internet, video games, TV, and movies became the preferred forms of entertainment for most people. This is a beast of a book, with 1000+ pages and with what feels like a hundred characters. In this edition, James Clavell provides a character list in the back of the book with a short description for each person. Because I read this over a longer than normal period of time, it was nice to be able to easily refresh my memory by taking a peek at the list. Clavell has never managed to create characters as compelling as Dirk Struan and May-May in the novel Tai-pan. Tess Struan, the mother of Malcolm, comes the closest, but she is in Hong Kong for the entire period covered by this book. She is the daughter of Dirk’s arch rival, Tyler Brock. She is a tough, determined, compelling woman, often referred to as The Hag, who is completely allied with Struan despite her blood relation to the Brocks. She is quite capable, with just a hiss of displeasure, of making a man’s “balls jump.” So even though she is not in Japan, her influence crosses the waves and continues to make men nervous who are making decisions she may question. I never did warm to Culum or Malcolm; both are pale comparisons to Dirk. Both felt the pressure of trying to live up to their illustrious ancestor. I have high hopes that Ian Dunross, the Tai-pan of Struans in the book Noble House, will finally provide me with the strong willed, smart, cunning character I so adored in Dirk Struan. I did break one of my unwritten rules by watching the miniseries based on Noble House before reading the book. If Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal is any indication, I do believe I will find Dirk finally alive and well in Ian Dunross. Despite my issues with the characters and the length of the book, I still enjoyed the journey. The intrigue developing between the Japanese and the constant friction between two diametrically opposed cultures kept the pages turning. As Angelique wraps Malcolm around her little finger, we can see a showdown coming between the beauty and the hag. I wouldn’t recommend this book for anybody except the most die hard Clavell fans. As I mentioned before, I highly recommend Tai-pan and then Noble House before attempting to read Gai-jin. This book is subtitled the Epic of the Birth of Modern Japan, and that it is, by God. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Now I know why I didn't like this book as well - no strong central character. There are a lot of great characters & the writing is everything I've come to expect from Clavell, but every other book of his is fairly upbeat (sort of) with a great heroic, central figure. Here there isn't one. I don't know who to pin my hopes on. In this typically complex set of circumstance & motivation, it's hard to pick out the good guy. There is a huge cast, many with strange (to me since they're Japanese & I'm n Now I know why I didn't like this book as well - no strong central character. There are a lot of great characters & the writing is everything I've come to expect from Clavell, but every other book of his is fairly upbeat (sort of) with a great heroic, central figure. Here there isn't one. I don't know who to pin my hopes on. In this typically complex set of circumstance & motivation, it's hard to pick out the good guy. There is a huge cast, many with strange (to me since they're Japanese & I'm not) names that they change occasionally as circumstances dictate. It's a very long & complex book, too. It never really dragged, but I it could have had some cuts without losing too much. It's very much an immersion in the times, but 2 cultures, not just the single one of Shogun. I was waiting for the end, hoping things would wrap up. Some did, but I found the final chapter rather abrupt, a real change of pace, & there were many important threads left hanging. I think this book would have been better as a trilogy with some closure in the final book. Yes, that much was left. I don't have much tolerance for extra words. That I made it through this book, which had plenty, is a testament to both Clavell's writing & John Lee's excellent reading. Both men are masters of their trades. I read the rest of Clavell's Asian Saga well before (maybe a decade?) this book came out. I didn't really miss it. While I'm happy to have given it another shot, especially in this format, if I ever do another re-read of the series, I'll probably skip it. While it does tie Shogun & Tai-pan together, that's not really reason enough. Now, the question is do I go on to listen to King Rat or Noble House? The former comes next in the series, but it isn't read by John Lee & isn't really important to the history of the Noble House. Tough call, but I think I'll go on to Noble House.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    I loved Clavell's SHOGUN, and while GAI-JIN takes great efforts to paint on-the-verge-of-Meiji Japan in great depth, this book is hardly SHOGUN. I'm on page 450 right now and feel as if everything so far could have been told in 150 pages...and I'm starting to wonder if I'll be able to get through the remaining 350. SHOGUN always opened new doors, always presented new sides to the characters and the politics...GAI-JIN just keeps treading and re-treading and re-re-treading old ground. I'm so much I loved Clavell's SHOGUN, and while GAI-JIN takes great efforts to paint on-the-verge-of-Meiji Japan in great depth, this book is hardly SHOGUN. I'm on page 450 right now and feel as if everything so far could have been told in 150 pages...and I'm starting to wonder if I'll be able to get through the remaining 350. SHOGUN always opened new doors, always presented new sides to the characters and the politics...GAI-JIN just keeps treading and re-treading and re-re-treading old ground. I'm so much of a Japanophile that I'm sticking with it, and the characters are compelling enough, but something needs to HAPPEN, darnit. I think, knowing the history and knowing what of the characters' plans simply won't come to fruition because that's not how history turned out, puts too much of a damper on the suspense for me. Not sure I'd recommend it, but it passes the time adequately. I do keep turning pages.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeruen

    An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: Gai-Jin by James Clavell on Blogcritics.org. This is the third book of James Clavell's Asian Saga. Two years ago, I read the first book, Shogun , and a year ago, I read the second, Tai-Pan . Both were huge mammoth books, and the third installment is nothing different. I suppose there are times in which I sort of disliked this book, but then later I realized that I only "disliked" it because I was expecting something else. An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: Gai-Jin by James Clavell on Blogcritics.org. This is the third book of James Clavell's Asian Saga. Two years ago, I read the first book, Shogun , and a year ago, I read the second, Tai-Pan . Both were huge mammoth books, and the third installment is nothing different. I suppose there are times in which I sort of disliked this book, but then later I realized that I only "disliked" it because I was expecting something else. But before I get into the critique, let me give you an idea what this book is about first. This is an epic, a saga, and thus, the plot of the book cannot be easily contained by a few select words. This is a novel about Japan in 1862. And as such, there's plenty of characters, and plenty of plots and sub-plots that intertwine and intermingle. The main source of conflict is the dealings between the foreigners (gaijin) and the Japanese. The foreigners are represented by the diplomats and the traders. Of the diplomats, there are mainly the representatives of the United Kingdom and France, but the Russia, United States and Switzerland also make minor appearances. With respect to the traders, there are two big trading houses that play big roles, Struan's and Brock's (which were both introduced and were the main source of conflict in the previous book). Lastly, within the foreigners, there's the pivotal role of Angelique Richaud, a Frenchwoman, and Philip Tyrer, a British translator. In the side of the Japanese, there's actually two big factions here: the Bakufu, which is the legitimate Japanese federal government; and the shishi, which are the rebel samurai whose goal is to bring Japan back to its previous state, when the Emperor had full power. These so far are the players. Now for the themes. One big theme in this novel is the clash of cultures. Every person, whether it is a foreigner or a Japanese, thinks that one's culture is superior to the other. Everyone has a spirit of egocentrism, always thinking that the other person is rude and barbaric. The foreigners think that the Japanese are barbaric, and vice versa. It's actually a mean and impressive feat that Clavell achieved here, as I find no character I like. Having grown up in several different cultures, I have learned to accept different cultures and be open-minded to others. Thus, this attitude of superiority was actually quite annoying to me as I was reading it. I think that if I find myself hating a character, it's because the author has made it realistic enough to agitate me. And in this book, every character was quite agitating. Another theme is sex. Believe it or not, sex features a lot in this book. There's the issue of concubines and mistresses, geisha and courtesans. There's also penis envy and kama sutra, but Japanese style. The Japanese are portrayed to be rather conscious of the largeness of the foreign penises, but they save face by assuring themselves that they know more about how to use it, and ridicule the foreigners by saying that they are so ignorant when it comes to sex. Somehow, at one point, I found this talk of sex to be tiring, thinking whether it is really the case that people think about sex all the time. But then I guess that is true, even in this modern age, sometimes even in the most serious affairs, we sometimes step out of our seriousness and mentally undress people in the back of our heads and enjoy a brief erotic moment. Intrigue is heavy in this book. In fact, this book breathes of intrigue. People whisper information to one another, and people play mind games to the umpteenth degree. I cannot narrate all of the different intriguing details here, and still do justice to the book. You just have to read it for yourself. I liked the fact that this book is big enough that there's something that anyone will like. There's military action, there's diplomatic espionage, there's even psychological thriller. All in a thousand-page historical novel. Perhaps it is the quintessential saga. What I didn't like is that there's too many things going on, but then, come to think of it, it's not a run-of-the-mill novel. It is a saga, so there should be too many things going on. I guess I just didn't like the fact that at times, I find myself forgetting about some detail that was written a few hundred pages back, and gets picked up again later. There's just too many people and stories to keep track of. Overall, it's a saga, and it delivered. This book packs a mean punch. And for fans of historical fiction, this is fiction, but was apparently based on historical events. I may have some complaints, and this book isn't perfect, but it's close. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews

    Aside a few mistakes (contradictions with earlier novels, such as the mention of May-May being Gordon Chen's mother when in Tai-Pan, she was not, among other things), this was a decent read. Like Tai-Pan, this plodded in some places, particularly through the later half of the book, but Clavell was rather ill and died shortly after finishing this. In my opinion, Shogun remains the best of the lot. Like Tai-Pan, the ending disappointed me. The reason I loved Shogon so much was because Blackthorne wa Aside a few mistakes (contradictions with earlier novels, such as the mention of May-May being Gordon Chen's mother when in Tai-Pan, she was not, among other things), this was a decent read. Like Tai-Pan, this plodded in some places, particularly through the later half of the book, but Clavell was rather ill and died shortly after finishing this. In my opinion, Shogun remains the best of the lot. Like Tai-Pan, the ending disappointed me. The reason I loved Shogon so much was because Blackthorne was completely immersed in Japanese culture and had to learn his way through or die. In Tai-Pan and Gai-Jin, much of the novel is centered on the actions of the Europeans, something I did not have too much interest in. I would have preferred to have a Shogun-esque story where the main character has to learn to acclimate to Chinese culture. The writing style though is solid, and is clearly well-researched, a definite plus for this book. I only wish that there was at least a chapter from Culum, Tess, and Gordon Chen's points of views, to show what has happened to them since Tai-Pan, and what happened to the deal set between Dirk and Jianqua, of which there is NO mention at all in Gai-Jin. It was a decent continuation of Tai-Pan in my opinion, but not as wonderful as Shogun. Overall, 3.5 out of five stars for this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    As I was cleaning my book shelves over the holidays, I discovered this wonderful book by James Clavell about the British in Japan in 1862. It is a suspenseful book with a stress that learning the language of the culture is a must. There are geisha girls, samurai soldiers, the British, French, and Japanese warriors filled with plans, wars, and doubts. Of course, there is a fascinating French girl. I couldn't put it down. I had read most of the Noble House series, but had overlooked this one. I gue As I was cleaning my book shelves over the holidays, I discovered this wonderful book by James Clavell about the British in Japan in 1862. It is a suspenseful book with a stress that learning the language of the culture is a must. There are geisha girls, samurai soldiers, the British, French, and Japanese warriors filled with plans, wars, and doubts. Of course, there is a fascinating French girl. I couldn't put it down. I had read most of the Noble House series, but had overlooked this one. I guess I bought it and thought I would read it later and simply forgot about it with my other book club selections. I went online to learn that James Clavell passed away in 1994, wrote the screenplay for To Sir with Love and The Great Escape, plus others. He was a POW in Japanese in a terrible camp, which became the plot for his book King Rat. His descriptions are clear and powerful.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Austin Briggs

    I admire Clavell, and would normally rate all his books as 5 out of 5. The intrigue, the complicated characters, the loyalties built and betrayed... I love that. However, I couldn't finish Gai-Jin despite starting to read it three times over the last 10 years. I just can't make it past a certain event mid-book (can't disclose a spoiler). I don't know what happened here. Maybe it's me, maybe it's just that the book is heavier than the usual, brilliant James Clavell. But I just can't get into it. O I admire Clavell, and would normally rate all his books as 5 out of 5. The intrigue, the complicated characters, the loyalties built and betrayed... I love that. However, I couldn't finish Gai-Jin despite starting to read it three times over the last 10 years. I just can't make it past a certain event mid-book (can't disclose a spoiler). I don't know what happened here. Maybe it's me, maybe it's just that the book is heavier than the usual, brilliant James Clavell. But I just can't get into it. Overall, it's left me puzzled and unsatisfied.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    great tale

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matt Crumpton

    This book is my least favorite in Clavell's Asian saga. First this is kind of a semi-sequel to both Shogun and Tai-pan. Many characters and descendents of characters and story lines and histories from the previous 2 novels can be found in Gai-jin. The novel is set in Hong Kong and Japan. The basic story is really good. The telling of the struggle between Japan and the Gai-jin (foreigners), and the internal struggle between The Japanese shogunate ( this ruling clan that gained supreme power in t This book is my least favorite in Clavell's Asian saga. First this is kind of a semi-sequel to both Shogun and Tai-pan. Many characters and descendents of characters and story lines and histories from the previous 2 novels can be found in Gai-jin. The novel is set in Hong Kong and Japan. The basic story is really good. The telling of the struggle between Japan and the Gai-jin (foreigners), and the internal struggle between The Japanese shogunate ( this ruling clan that gained supreme power in the novel Shogun) and the Japanese who want ruling power to return back to the emperor of Japan. As in his other works the story contains a bunch of other sub plots, and a cast of many. In this book it seems like its just too much and too long. Sadly the stories do not get tied up nicely and it leaves you wanting more. The book really doesnt end which is a let down. In conclusion I love the base story of the book, but there is just too much sub plots and characters to keep track of. Also, it is a very, very long and slow going 1300 pages that I find I would not want to put in the effort to read again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Repetitive and unoriginal, especially when considered as part of the "Asian Saga." Don't read this if you have any basic understanding of Japanese history, have read any of Clavell's other books, or if you care about grammatical accuracy and vaguely unique characterization and dialogue. So what made me consume 1000+ pages of this stuff? Hmm. Well, it was promising in the beginning, I suppose. The subject itself (the decline of the shogunate and the foreign "invasion" of Japan) is interesting, and Repetitive and unoriginal, especially when considered as part of the "Asian Saga." Don't read this if you have any basic understanding of Japanese history, have read any of Clavell's other books, or if you care about grammatical accuracy and vaguely unique characterization and dialogue. So what made me consume 1000+ pages of this stuff? Hmm. Well, it was promising in the beginning, I suppose. The subject itself (the decline of the shogunate and the foreign "invasion" of Japan) is interesting, and I'd like to read another fictional attempt set in the same era. On a side note, I would add that Clavell is amusing in his characterization of women - they are all conniving sneaks out to control men and other women. I think one of my favorite parts of the book involved one man watching the main female, thinking to himself that she "fed on their lust." Ha. Sadly, amusement quickly turns to boredom after a while, and I really would advise you to stay away from this book as long as you have something else to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hasham Rasool

    The Asian Saga: the struggle for Japan's destiny. The Asian Saga: the struggle for Japan's destiny.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Honza

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was warned this book isn't as good as other Clavell's novels and I was discouraged to finish it, multiple times. It took me 15 months to finish this book, but I don't regret it. I've seen reviewers to point out the book is too lengthy or that it lacks a main, central hero in the story and that's why it's not as good as the other Asian Saga stories. I have to admit the book definitely is way too long for what it contains, but I absolutely reject the idea that there is no central character. I agre I was warned this book isn't as good as other Clavell's novels and I was discouraged to finish it, multiple times. It took me 15 months to finish this book, but I don't regret it. I've seen reviewers to point out the book is too lengthy or that it lacks a main, central hero in the story and that's why it's not as good as the other Asian Saga stories. I have to admit the book definitely is way too long for what it contains, but I absolutely reject the idea that there is no central character. I agree Clavell took a different approach in Gai-Jin. I guess that at the end of his life, he didn't want to give readers the same pattern with central hero as many of his previous stories did, so he plays a sort of game here. He presents a lot of characters, which look like main characters at the beginning, but turn out to be ancillary in the future while new heros arise. When I realised that, the book was actually more fun, because I couldn't be sure who is going to prevail, who's going to die next, who's going to survive. The only thing I was afraid will happen was that the book will end in a similar way Tai-Pan did and due to that I'm still a bit torn in deciding whether I like the end or not. But to be honest, by reading couple of his books already, I learned that ends of Clavell's stories aren't meant to be "liked". It seems that it doesn't matter whether I (as a reader) like the end or not. Clavell presents it as: this is how it was, period. You finish the last page and then you realise your privilege to see into people's lives has just ended and there's nothing you can do with it. Their lives continue, your life continues. Now you have to learn to live without this book. You've been supposed to like the whole way through the story, not to wait for some grand finale. Maybe that's also why the book is so long as there's no need to rush for the ending. Life also doesn't have dramatic ending, life's supposed to be lived on the way. And when there's the end, you just stare to emptiness and the only feeling you're left with is again, as in the other Clavell's stories: "Karma, neh?" And then there's this other thing. When I finished the book, it all suddenly clicked in my head and I realised who's probably the biggest hero in this story. The idea silently crawled into my head, inconspicuous, the same way the hero was inconspicuous, but at the same time so strongly present everywhere. Invisible, but principal. The main character of this book is: "a woman" The book is about all women and their burden and complexity of their lives, their attempts to survive in a man's world, about a girl turning into a woman, about wits, manipulations, desires, hopes, doubts. Maybe I heavily misinterpreted contents of the book, maybe I've seen something that others overlooked. Maybe this was exactly the message Clavell wanted to pass to the world in his last large novel he created before he passed away, maybe I'm completely imagining things. You'll have to find out yourself!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tami

    4.5 stars Another wonderful, long, rich, full and fascinating historical novel by Clavell loosely based on historical events. Again complex and interesting characters, and a combination of politics, business, intrigues and personal stories. The story line I found most interesting here was the romance, or maybe better described as the family melodrama, that gladly took a big part of the book. Since this books is set in the middle of the Asiatic saga there were descendants and ancestors of beloved 4.5 stars Another wonderful, long, rich, full and fascinating historical novel by Clavell loosely based on historical events. Again complex and interesting characters, and a combination of politics, business, intrigues and personal stories. The story line I found most interesting here was the romance, or maybe better described as the family melodrama, that gladly took a big part of the book. Since this books is set in the middle of the Asiatic saga there were descendants and ancestors of beloved (or deliciously hated) characters from the other books of the saga, and it added to the fun of reading, knowing what will come out of them or how they'll be remembered, one of them the legendary "Hag Struan" remembered as a mythical character from "Noble House", here still Tess Struan, relatively young, but already looming and feared, very much present though from far away Hong Kong. Another character I liked a lot was Angelique, starting the book as the belle of the settlement, silly and young and care free, almost a child, forced to grow up fast by dire circumstances. She reminded me of Scarlett from Gone with the Wind, going through a similar process at the same time the plot of this book takes place, in another continent. All in all a great read, hard to put down, very engaging emotionally. I believe anyone who enjoyed the other books in the saga will enjoy this one too.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Webster Fortyone

    It is almost impossible to summarise a James Clavell novel in a book review. They are invariably a thosand pages of narrative that spans a short period of time, packed with an ensemble cast of larger than life characters from another time, in a faraway exotic land; all of whom are battling, loving, hating, spying on, killing, plotting against and sleeping with each other. Gai-Jin isn't as famous as Shogun but is essential reading for a true fan. It is tragic in many ways as it traces the difficu It is almost impossible to summarise a James Clavell novel in a book review. They are invariably a thosand pages of narrative that spans a short period of time, packed with an ensemble cast of larger than life characters from another time, in a faraway exotic land; all of whom are battling, loving, hating, spying on, killing, plotting against and sleeping with each other. Gai-Jin isn't as famous as Shogun but is essential reading for a true fan. It is tragic in many ways as it traces the difficulties of Malcolm Struan - a young man destined to inherit a large fortune and marry a beautiful French woman, but whose happines is cut short after a brutal attempt on his life. The beautiful French woman's tale sometimes takes over where the reader will hate her or at best understand her actions. The most interesting character of the story is the alpha male - Yoshi Toranaga who is the protector of the shogunate and a direct descendant of the first shogun. The cultural niceites and high-level political negotiations are given a boost of interest with the addition of dangerous elements like double-crosses, back-room negotiations, kingmaking, assassinations and the like. But the finest role is that of Malcolm Struan's mother - Tess, who though is never present in person, casts an iron-grip on the powers that be simply by the influence she wields through letters. Fact Behind Fiction

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Great book! Outstanding characters and intrigue, a glimpse of life in the first British settlement in Japan. Builds on the other two books, with the same characters and history. Perhaps not as exciting, but a great read none the less. May 18, 2020 As I go through this series and reread the first three books, I've found that there are tons of little things that I have forgotten. Re reading my previous review, I would agree that in someways this is a less "exciting" story, but there are, without a d Great book! Outstanding characters and intrigue, a glimpse of life in the first British settlement in Japan. Builds on the other two books, with the same characters and history. Perhaps not as exciting, but a great read none the less. May 18, 2020 As I go through this series and reread the first three books, I've found that there are tons of little things that I have forgotten. Re reading my previous review, I would agree that in someways this is a less "exciting" story, but there are, without a doubt, chapters full of exciting events! The assassination attempt, the fire of the settlement, the macabre funeral at sea. These are epic scenes that will stick with the reader. Additionally, and I don't think I realized this the first time I read it; Clavell has had strong female characters in both of the previous novels, but in this one we see them really leading the show. When looked at from a step back, the reader will realize that the women of this story are really doing all of the work to move the plot along. They are really leading the dance, but with the subtlety and finesse of....a woman. Great read!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Anderson

    Not as good as Shogun, but similar in many ways: lots of characters, lots of intrigue and culture clashes and translation issues. However, where Shogun had one main character this one had a bunch (10?) so it was less compelling. I found myself looking forward to being finished. Still, I am incredibly impressed with the author for keeping track of so many convoluted plots and schemes between all the characters. Also, I listened to this as an audiobook and the reader (who I recognized from other a Not as good as Shogun, but similar in many ways: lots of characters, lots of intrigue and culture clashes and translation issues. However, where Shogun had one main character this one had a bunch (10?) so it was less compelling. I found myself looking forward to being finished. Still, I am incredibly impressed with the author for keeping track of so many convoluted plots and schemes between all the characters. Also, I listened to this as an audiobook and the reader (who I recognized from other audiobooks I've listened to) deserves a lot of credit for attempting to do all the myriad accents. Not just English and Japanese, but "Virginian who studied in England for a few years" and "Japanese who was shipwrecked in America and learned english there" and other compound multi-national accents. Really impressive.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura Noggle

    History rich, a deeper look into the Western presence in Japan, 1862. Dangerous, lots of blood, samurais, spies, prostitutes - another well crafted masterpiece. The building tension between the Japanese and the foreigners ... couldn't put it down the last half. History rich, a deeper look into the Western presence in Japan, 1862. Dangerous, lots of blood, samurais, spies, prostitutes - another well crafted masterpiece. The building tension between the Japanese and the foreigners ... couldn't put it down the last half.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lia

    Five stars when the stories centered on the Japanese characters. One star when the stories centered on the European characters. Totally not at the same level as Tai-Pan.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Highton

    An extremely long book, dealing with European traders with a foothold in Japan, and their personal lifes and lives, and also dealing with internecine politics within the ruling classes of Japan. I found this very difficult to read for the first 500 pages and really had to persevere - not entirely sure it was worth it in the end.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt Seeker

    Welp, I'm done and somehow that seems the important part. My foray into pop lit has officially hit a wall. This book did have some redeeming qualities. There a lot of moving plot machinations and torn character motivations, but the moments of badassery were separated by too many pages of stupid shit that you really don't give a flying fart about. It is also the first Clavell book I read without an western archetypal hero. This was the third book in the Asian Saga, but the last one that Clavell p Welp, I'm done and somehow that seems the important part. My foray into pop lit has officially hit a wall. This book did have some redeeming qualities. There a lot of moving plot machinations and torn character motivations, but the moments of badassery were separated by too many pages of stupid shit that you really don't give a flying fart about. It is also the first Clavell book I read without an western archetypal hero. This was the third book in the Asian Saga, but the last one that Clavell penned, so as a geriatric prune eater, he seemed to have felt a need to put a pretty ribbon on the series and tie everything up. I could almost hear "Wild Horses" being covered in Japanese as the 100 page wrap up montage carried me to freedom from this drivel. My love for Shogun and Tai-pan really carried me through and probably kept me reading longer than I would have. It was almost as if these were the Godfather movies, Gai-jin being Godfather III-the Afterthought. Spoilers (as if you care)... Things that are awesome: Ninjas and Samurai - Fucking Ninjas and Samurai, nuff said. Japanese Concubines - The ability of the sideways snatch to politically motivate white folks and change the course of history never ceases to amaze me (i.e. The Beatles) Yoshi and Hiraga - While enemies, the most compelling characters in the story. The Fire - Too bad it took 700 pages too many to get there. Abortion Herbs - Looks like we were about 200 years late on the plan B there.... Morphine - Turning sick people into pill addicted lunatics since 1850! Things that sucked: Angelique Richaurd - The female lead in this story and she makes no sense to me. Clavell seems to paint her as a manipulative, self interested cocktease (I ain't sayin' she a gold digga....), but in the same page space drums up sympathy for this poor victim. She has brief moments of strength and cunning followed by brief moments of crying and helpless crap. People in the settlement all want to bang her but all feel oh so sad for her. I really wish he would have taken her one way or the other, at least she would have been interesting. I may just hate her because she's French, in which case, I make no apologies. Where to bury [redacted] - 200 pages for a burial scheme!?!?!??! I think Clavell was thinking a little too much about his impending mortality (he died one year after it was published). Boring Characters that go nowhere - There is no less than 30 characters in this book that have no use to the plot and no draw to the reader. I suck - for taking 4 months of useful reading time to finish this 1300 page book, 6 pages at a time before bed. I suck.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grada (BoekenTrol)

    Like the other books of James Clavell, I borrowed this one from the library years ago. I liked his style and decided that I wanted to have his books. (Then I could take as long as I wanted, not be limited to a maximum of 6 weeks or so...) Now that I own it, I will read this one again, don't know when, but... definitely will. Review: despite it is a good book, I liked it less than I liked shogun. For some reason it grabbed me less. The stories told were good, the characters enjoyable, even though Like the other books of James Clavell, I borrowed this one from the library years ago. I liked his style and decided that I wanted to have his books. (Then I could take as long as I wanted, not be limited to a maximum of 6 weeks or so...) Now that I own it, I will read this one again, don't know when, but... definitely will. Review: despite it is a good book, I liked it less than I liked shogun. For some reason it grabbed me less. The stories told were good, the characters enjoyable, even though some were good, some bad and most of them very cunning, just looking for personal advantage at every cost. The characters of the Chinese servants of Malcolm Struan were very likeable, describing the Chinese mindset quite accurate in my very humble opinion. The factions in Japanese society, sishi, in favor of the shogun/ the emperor and why, how, what were a lot less clear. Allies and enemies, it took me quite a while to figure out what the lotalties were, only to find that things were different from what I thought. I got quite irritated with the westeners there, how can they be so dirty, have lice, while the Japanese were so much further in personal hygene. But.... then I remembered... different times, different habits. The book gets 4 stars anyway, because I ejoyed reading it immensely, because while reading I felt like I was visiting the scenes.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Frank Pinelander

    This is typical Clavell - intricately woven with very deep character development and many surprises. It doesn't really matter how many literary plots one believes in, Clavell seems to incorporate them all into his novels. The only thing I am critical about, is that this book in the saga does not fill in the storyline to any significant degree between Tai-pan and Noble House, something I was looking forward to. This is typical Clavell - intricately woven with very deep character development and many surprises. It doesn't really matter how many literary plots one believes in, Clavell seems to incorporate them all into his novels. The only thing I am critical about, is that this book in the saga does not fill in the storyline to any significant degree between Tai-pan and Noble House, something I was looking forward to.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard Beasley

    Picked this up in 2nd handbook shop before Christmas. Had forgotten how absorbing Clavell is. It actually got a bit tedious and I found the development of one of the Japanese samurai warriors who ends up spying / infiltrating the Western end. The best characters are either not in it enough (Toranaga) or only referred to and never seen directly ("hag" Struan). Good enough yo remind me how much I loved Tai-Pan and Shogun as a teenager, so James Clavell very define toy on the re-read list Picked this up in 2nd handbook shop before Christmas. Had forgotten how absorbing Clavell is. It actually got a bit tedious and I found the development of one of the Japanese samurai warriors who ends up spying / infiltrating the Western end. The best characters are either not in it enough (Toranaga) or only referred to and never seen directly ("hag" Struan). Good enough yo remind me how much I loved Tai-Pan and Shogun as a teenager, so James Clavell very define toy on the re-read list

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Excellent sequil to Noble House. Another thick book that kept my attention and interest. It picks up where Noble House left off and covers the same families and rivalries. Excellent. I remember I bought it in hard cover as soon as it came out - I had waited over 10 yrs for the sequil.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Saya

    Utter crap of the worst sort, like Bear and Dragon, chosen for its length alone. Full of the most facile stereotypes and misguided ideas of chivalry. Not even a decent bodice-ripper. Completely unredeemable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Theophilus (Theo)

    Fills in a little of the big time void between Taipan and King Rat. Not as good as either, but still follows the characters. Kind of wraps up Taipan after the death of Dirk Struan by following his son to Japan for more adventure and cutthroat mercantilism.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blake Charlton

    a vast colonial epic, less thrilling than others in the series, but still compelling, partially because the author pulls no punches for any of his characters.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Gai-Jin (meaning 'outside person', or 'foreigner' in Japanese) is based on an actual 1862 event, known as the Namamugi Incident, in which a British national was killed, and two others wounded, by samurai on the Tokaido highway near Kanagawa for not showing the proper respect for passing Satsuma daimyo (Satsuma is a province in the south of Japan, and daimyos were local heads of government in Japan's then feudal system) . In retribution the British navy bombarded the Satsuma capital of Kagoshima. Gai-Jin (meaning 'outside person', or 'foreigner' in Japanese) is based on an actual 1862 event, known as the Namamugi Incident, in which a British national was killed, and two others wounded, by samurai on the Tokaido highway near Kanagawa for not showing the proper respect for passing Satsuma daimyo (Satsuma is a province in the south of Japan, and daimyos were local heads of government in Japan's then feudal system) . In retribution the British navy bombarded the Satsuma capital of Kagoshima. These short-lived hostilities (known as the Anglos-Satsuma War) contributed to Japan's decision, after witnessing the easy destruction of Kagoshima by the British, to modernise its army and also to trade more freely with the Western powers. The Namamugi Incident forms the opening of the novel, and the rest of it is taken up with its consequences. However, on a wider scale, the book tells the story of the opening up of Japan consequent to Commodore Perry's arrival, in 1858, with the black ships and the 'unfair treaties' that were then 'forced' on the weakening Tokugawa shogunate. Even though little time passes and not much action takes place in the book, it captures the many strands of all the influences which caused Japan to reluctantly open to the world, frozen at almost a single moment in time. These events, ultimately, lead to the collapse of the shogunate and the whole feudal system in 1867 and the Meiji Restoration in 1868, though the novel doesn't cover events up to that point (just as Clavell's earlier Shogun doesn't cover any of the actual Tokugawa shogunate, only the events leading up to its formation). Reviewers complain that nothing happens at the end of the novel, that it is an anti-climax after the 1,200 pages or more of time and effort required to get to the end. Up until shortly before I finally gave up, this seemed to me to be excusable, because the book builds the reader up for a big British-led invasion of Japan that never did actually take place. It didn't happen, but in retrospect it is amazing that it didn't, and that Japan resisted Western aggression, was never colonised, and built up an army powerful enough to defeat one Western power (Russia, 1905) and then go on to give America and Britain a run for their money in WW2 and then to become the second largest economy in the world. This thwarted everybody's expectations, so it isn't it right that the book thwarts the reader's expectations and simply diffuses at the end? But, of course, I don't even know what happens at the end, because I didn't get that far! Does it end in the bombardment of Kagoshima by the British? That would be a good ending, and fairly dramatic. It's true that there isn't much development in the story, but Clavell delves deep into character and historical detail, focusing minutely on the spaces between the actual events (which are few and far between). After 800 pages little more happens than Canterbury is assassinated on the Tokaido and the British are demanding retribution from the shogunate, who claim that it is a matter for Satsuma rather than them. This stalemate just goes on and on. However, there are loads of interweaving subplots beneath this main historical story in which lots does happen, lots is thought and, perhaps most annoyingly for some readers, lots is said. All this explores in great detail the situation in Japan at this point in history and it is done with great understanding and empathy (though Clavell does occasionally get things wrong - for example talking about the use of incense in Shinto shrines. This mistake is minor but it undermines the reader's trust in his authority as a Japan expert). Gai-Jin, much more than Shogun, is a novel with an ensemble cast. There are many 'main characters'', none of which has the reader's total sympathy or support and none of which are drawn with a totally unsympathetic hand. Some reviewers have complained that this gives the reader no one to 'root for'. I think this method is fine in this book. After all, in life, nobody is absolutely wrong and nobody absolutely right. It all depends on the moral standpoint of the onlooker. Here Clavell suppresses any moral standpoint, never judging the actions of his characters, simply portraying them. This is a great achievement, though some may criticise Clavell for being amoral as a consequence. I think the opposite. This great understanding and sympathy suggests that he is a compassionate man, able to understand everybody's actions as they are motivated by different and conflicting agendas, whether it is the shishi and their sonno-joi movement to expel all gai-jin and restore power to the emperor, a British official and interpreter wanting to advance himself, or a French girl trying to use all her sexual charms to win the hand in marriage of the richest man in all Asia. Other complaints are of bad grammar, and these are valid, but the grammar is not bad enough to seriously distract the reader from the story, so this is relatively unimportant. The novel is certainly not badly written. Clavell again demonstrates his fluent and compulsive style. The pages turn and before you know it whole hours have slipped by. However, for me, not all the pages turned. I just want to address two issues about Clavell's narrative method in the book. Narrative method 1 - exposition on Japanese culture is often presented as memory or flashback of a Japanese character. Seems clunky but these things do need explaining to the majority of the target readership. I cant think of a better solution. Narrative method 2 - the omniscient narrator is reporting a conversation, then (memory or not?) he switches to an earlier time and what went on there. One reviewer said there was sometimes a memory within a memory. Cant remember that ever happening. Also, it was said by the same reviewer that within one character's recollections, the view of another character was expressed. This would be a flaw if it was a memory, but maybe it isn't - maybe it's just omniscient reportage. I would recommend this book, but certainly not over Shogun (and, from what other readers say, not over Tai-pan or Noble House). I probably won't ever finish it, as there's plenty of good stuff out there to read instead, and I gave this one a good shot. It's unusual for me to give up on a book (I also gave up on Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and On the Road by Jack Kerouac - can't think of any others), especially when I don't even think the book is bad, which is the case here. This book could really have done with some tightening up and cutting, as there's plenty of great stuff in it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kylie

    I'M FREE! Okay, that's a bit harsh. I was just starting to get a bit sick of it as I had been reading it for so long. As usual with Clavell's Asian Saga, the book is meticulously researched and intricately plotted, so it almost feels like you're actually there. However, again as usual, the plot itself is more a slice of life or sample stretch of events so there is no real resolution. The number of important characters in this book is greater than Shogun, which means you have to get a lot further i I'M FREE! Okay, that's a bit harsh. I was just starting to get a bit sick of it as I had been reading it for so long. As usual with Clavell's Asian Saga, the book is meticulously researched and intricately plotted, so it almost feels like you're actually there. However, again as usual, the plot itself is more a slice of life or sample stretch of events so there is no real resolution. The number of important characters in this book is greater than Shogun, which means you have to get a lot further into the book before you actually begin to care about any of them (for me it was about 400 pages in, at least partly because Angelique was ridiculously irritating before she had her unfortunate trauma). If I hadn't read Clavell before, or hadn't been lent this by a friend, I probably wouldn't have carried on for as long as I did before I became more interested in what was going on. Before you read this you need to ask yourself: 1) Am I willing to be in it for the long haul? 2) Am I fine with a narration that doesn't judge morally ambigious characters and/or actions? 3) Do I need a resolution where all loose ends are tied up? If you answer yes, yes and no you can go ahead and read it. If you answer differently...well, maybe you should think again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    I am only giving this book 3 stars as it was just a really heavy read for me. I was almost halfway through before i began to really enjoy it and the book is over 1200 pages. Historical fictional asian saga set in the 1800s when trade was begun with Japan. There were just so many characters in the novel and different factions within Japan fighting for power that I had a hard time following it and the main character was just not strong enough. Despite that there is no question James Clavell is an I am only giving this book 3 stars as it was just a really heavy read for me. I was almost halfway through before i began to really enjoy it and the book is over 1200 pages. Historical fictional asian saga set in the 1800s when trade was begun with Japan. There were just so many characters in the novel and different factions within Japan fighting for power that I had a hard time following it and the main character was just not strong enough. Despite that there is no question James Clavell is an amazing author. Perhaps if i had read Tai-Pan before reading this novel i would have enjoyed it more. Definitely will be choosing a light easy read for my next book!

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