I have just finished reading the last of my four books for Transworld Historical Reading Challenge. I chose the last book by Lesley Downer as it was set in Japan during the time of the Samurai warriors. I know very little of the time period and my own awareness of Samurai warriors and geisha girls is from the movies The Last Samurai and Memoirs of a Geisha. I was hoping this book would enlighten me more and it definitely achieved my knowledge and interest being updated but also encouraging me to read much more on this time period.
The book was called Across a Bridge of Dreams and the description of the plot is :-
In the brave new Japan of the 1870s, Taka and Nobu meet as children and fall in love; but their relationship will test the limits of society.
Unified after a bitter civil war, Japan is rapidly turning into a modern country with rickshaws, railways and schools for girls. Commoners can marry their children into any class, and the old hatred between north and south is over – or so it seems.
Taka is from the powerful southern Satsuma clan which now dominates the country, and her father, General Kitaoka, is a leader of the new government. Nobu, however, is from the northern Aizu clan, massacred by the Satsuma in the civil war. Defeated and reduced to poverty, his family has sworn revenge on the Satsuma.
Taka and Nobu’s love is unacceptable to both their families and must be kept secret, but what they cannot foresee is how quickly the tables will turn. Many southern samurai become disillusioned with the new regime, which has deprived them of their swords, status and honour. Taka’s father abruptly leaves Tokyo and returns to the southern island of Kyushu, where trouble is brewing.
When he and his clansmen rise in rebellion, the government sends its newly created army to put them down. Nobu and his brothers have joined this army, and his brothers now see their chance of revenge on the Satsuma. But Nobu will have to fight and maybe kill Taka’s father and brother, while Taka now has to make a terrible choice – between her family and the man she loves …
From the moment I started reading this book , I knew I was going to like it as the two main characters Taka and Nobu leapt off the page and into my heart. I really hoped that their relationship would develop into happiness that I felt they both deserved.
The divide in their two clans caused so much pain and distress as they fell deeper into love , yet realised the hurdles that were in their way.
Taka was a feisty, young lady. Over time she learnt not only how her Mother’s pride and relationship with her father was a love so strong, but also how it defined her not only a daughter of a Geisha, but also a daughter of a Samurai warrior. She learned how she had to behave responsibly to her family, but also had fallen in love with Nobu from an opposing clan – leading her to be tormented over her desire to be a good daughter and also being in love with someone who will not be accepted because of his rank in society.
Taka was a pleasant character that I liked immensely , and was glad she had the ending that she deserved. Her growth in character throughout the book, was a joy as I continued reading. I also really liked Taka’s mother Fujino , who never forget her love and did anything to be near him in the most graceful manner. Her time as a Geisha was beautifully described.
Nobu was a fascinating character torn between love and duty to his family and the need for revenge after the defeat by the Satsuma Clan. He was loyal to both , when divided in so many ways. Nobu for me, was a quiet and yet strong character who thought that he was losing everything, only to come out strong and happy at the end. I liked his bravery and resolution to protect Taka and his understanding of the need for their discreet behaviour even at a time when the war was ending.
Lesley Downer has written a beautiful love story wrapped in a fascinating historical period , full of excitement and wonderful characters. The description of the food , lifestyle and of the scenic lands described were stimulating my imagination joyfully. The description of the volcano alone, had me desiring to further my knowledge of Japan and to read more around the subject.