Monday, June 11, 2012

Julie's Review: The Sadness of the Samurai

Summary: A betrayal and a murder in pro-Nazi Spain spark a struggle for power that grips a family for generations in this sweeping historical thriller. Fierce, edgy, brisk, and enthralling, this brilliant novel by Victor del Árbol pushes the boundaries of the traditional historical novel and in doing so creates a work of incredible power that resonates long after the last page has been turned. When Isabel, a Spanish aristocrat living in the pro-Nazi Spain of 1941, becomes involved in a plot to kill her Fascist husband, she finds herself betrayed by her mysterious lover. The effects of her betrayal play out in a violent struggle for power in both family and government over three generations, intertwining her story with that of a young lawyer named Maria forty years later. During the attempted Fascist coup of 1981, Maria is accused of plotting the prison escape of a man she successfully prosecuted for murder. As Maria's and Isabel's narratives unfold they encircle each other, creating a page-turning literary thriller firmly rooted in history.

Review: The Sadness of the Samurai is an intriguing book about the Spain's painful political history. Is who you are affected by a history that you didn't know existed? Do we always pay for the sins of our parents? Do loyalty and betrayal exist on the same tightrope in war?

Most of the book is told in flashbacks to the 1940s and then in present past in the early 1980s. Most of the story is told for the point of Maria, our protagonist. Maria isn't an easy character to like. She's a bit brash, self-involved and emotionally stunted.  A huge case falls into her lap and she uses it to catapult her career and to leave her abusive husband. She wins the case but only to have it come back to her 3 years later and send her on a trip into a twisted and deceitful past.

There are a lot of moving parts in this book and a lot of characters. At times it was hard to keep them all straight especially if I put the book down for any period of time. Even though that was the case, I was still intrigued how this was all going to be pulled together. Mr. Del Arbol did a fine job in making it all come together in the end.

In the end there really wasn't one truly likable character in the novel. They were some truly despicable people. They had no compassion and no morals. That being said, I did feel a need to know what happened in the end. I wanted to know if those truly responsible paid for their actions in the past and in the future.

I love learning about parts of history that I hadn't been exposed to before and this part of Spain's history was completely unfamiliar to me. Not that I know a lot about Spain's history. Mr. Del Arbol brings these periods to life with vivid descriptions. It's very obvious that he has done his research about Spain's complex political history.

I am hoping that Henry Holt decides to translate Mr. Del Arbol's other books into English. He is definitely an author I would read again.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt, for an ARC copy of the novel.



Marce June 17, 2012 at 2:32 PM  

The history of revenge was impressive. There were lots of characters.

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