Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme that was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners but is now currently being hosted by Emily @ Budget Tales Book Blog. This meme is quite easy to follow – just randomly pick a book from your to-be-read list and give the reasons why you want to read it. It is that simple.

This week’s book:

Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka

Blurb from Goodreads

It is the dawn of the New Year, 1861. After two centuries of isolation, Japan has been forced to open its doors to the West, igniting a clash of cultures and generations. And as foreign ships threaten to rain destruction on the Shogun’s castle in Edo, a small group of American missionaries has chosen this time to spread the word of their God. Among them, Emily Gibson, a woman seeking redemption from a tormented past, and Matthew Stark, a cold-eyed killer with one more death on his mind.

Neither realizes that their future in Japan has already been foreseen. For a young nobleman, Lord Genji, has dreamt that his life will be saved by an outsider in the New Year. Widely reviled as a dilettante, Lord Genji has one weapon with which to inspire awe. In his family, one in every generation is said to have the gift of prophecy. And what Lord Genji sees has struck fear in many around him. As the Shogun’s secret police chief plots Genji’s death – and the utter destruction of his entire clan–the young and untried lord must prove that he is more than the handsome womanizer of legend, famed lover of Edo’s most celebrated geisha, Lady Heiko, and that his prophetic powers are no mere fairy tale.

Forced to escape from Edo and flee to his ancestral stronghold, the spectacular Cloud of Sparrows Castle, Genji joins his fate with Emily and Stark, unaware of the dark forces that drive them. Together with Genji’s uncle, Lord Shigeru, a legendary swordsman knee-deep in the blood of his own kin, and the enigmatic Lady Heiko, the unlikely band embarks on a harrowing journey through a landscape bristling with danger – to prepare for a final battle.

Here, on a snowscape stained with blood, horror will mix with wonder, secrets will unravel, and love will duel with vengeance – as East and West, flesh and spirit, past and future, collide in ways no one–least of all Genji–could have imagined. 

Why I Want To Read It

And it is Monday again! I hope you were all able to rest and relax during the weekend in preparation for another tough week ahead. Yes, I know, Monday is the day of the week dreaded by most, including yours truly. At least once upon a time. Nevertheless, I hope you all had a great start to the week. Otherwise, I hope you can use the rest of the week to make up for your Monday blues. More importantly, I hope that everyone is doing well, in body, mind, and spirit. There is a bit of a surge here in the Philippines. However, it seems like no one is panicking. Everybody, I have observed, has adjusted their mindset. With or without the virus, everyone is eager to resume their normal lives. It no longer matters what this new normal looks like. While I understand that protocols are in place, I hope that everyone still observes minimum health protocols. I just hope that the pandemic, with all its variants, will soon come to an end.

To kickstart the blogging week, I am posting a new Goodreads Monday update. For July, my birth month, I have chosen to pivot towards one of my comfort zones in the vast ambit of literature: Japanese literature. A reading journey is not complete without this yearly pilgrimage to one of the most exciting and most diverse spheres of literature. If my memory is not betraying me, this annual pilgrimage almost always has been during my birth month. Currently, I am reading A Quiet Life, my fourth book for the month, and my third novel by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Kenzaburō Ōe. Dang, I just realized that A Quiet Life and A Personal Matter were one and the same. Oh, foolish me. Anyway, for this Goodreads Monday update, I am featuring Takashi Matsuoka, with one of his most popular works, Cloud of Sparrows.

Like last week’s featured writer Fumiko Enchi, I have never read any of Matsuoka’s works previously. I think this is my first time encountering him or his works. The book was listed as one of the 50 best Japanese books of all time, which was one of the primary reasons why I added the book to my reading. Most of the books on the list are books I have read before or are in genres that I rarely venture into. Anyway, Matsuoka is a first-generation Japanese American, and Cloud of Sparrows (2002) was his first major novel; he did work on the script for the 1990 film Pale Blood. His other novel, Autumn Bridge, was published in 2004.

His debut novel, when I first encountered it, reminded me of James Clavell who was known for his novel series, Asian Trilogy, particularly Shōgun. Honestly, I haven’t read the book yet but I kept encountering it. Both Clavell’s and Matsuoka’s work evoked the same vibe and it was not difficult seeing the parallels between the two novels, which also happen to be works of historical fiction. Matsuoka’s novel chronicles the twilight years of the Edo period. It was a turbulent period as Japan opens its borders to the West. This is a very prevalent subject in Japanese literature but it is always interesting reading new perspectives (literary) on this seminal period in contemporary Japanese history.

For now, the goal is to obtain a copy of the novel. How about you fellow reader? Are there works of Japanese literature you can recommend to me? I hope you can share it in the comment box.