Thursday, June 9, 2011

Book Review: Adventures in Japan: A Literary Journey in the Footsteps of a Victorian Lady

Wow, sorry for not posting yesterday guys, I had a good sized headache all afternoon and evening yesterday and couldn't think straight enough to write up a review (and I don't have a buffer right now although I'm working on that). Fair warning, this happens semi-regularly and, while I have written reviews before with a headache, they're usually not very good so I try not to.

Anyway, it's a book! Sometimes I like to wander through travel section at my library and pull out all the coffee table books with pictures from other countries and stare at those for a few hours and other times I'll pick up a travelogue or two and spend a few hours staring at words describing a foreign culture. This one was the later which caught my eye because of it's slender size and the quote on the front of the book, "only the strong should travel in northern Japan." Not being very familiar with the north of Japan I was curious why the speaker said that and hoped that the book would explain and to an extent it did.

Adventures in Japan: A Literary Journey in the Footsteps of a Victorian Lady by Evelyn Kaye
 It's a nice touch to have the cover of a book be a collage since the book does cover the author's journey to many different places in Japan, not just one place that could be summed up in one image.

Summary: The biographer of Isabella Bird, a lady from Victorian England with a passion for travel, decides to follow in Bird's footsteps and visit the same places she did in Japan.

The Good: Most of the things that I read about Japan are either related to anime/manga or to Tokyo so it was interesting to read a book that covered a much different topic. Although the book is over ten years old, the way that Kaye describes the countryside and the places she visits, some of them unchanged from when Bird saw them, makes it sound as if this is a part of Japan that hasn't changed much over the decades and it's a very different image from the tech-savvy Japan that the west usually envisions.

The Bad: At times it seems that Kaye isn't sure of how much of Bird's travels to put into her story and the transitions between the sections feel a bit sloppy. She gets much better at balancing out the two stories as the book goes on but the beginning of the book is a bit weak. She also adds in too many unnecessary details at points (some hotel tvs in Japan are change operated, interesting! A cashier at a store gave her change back, boring!) and again, this problem occurs more towards the beginning of the book and everything is flowing much more smoothly at the end.

So, an interesting read but in some respects a very light read and I don't feel the urge to add this book to my collection. As a quick note for next week, I'll be posting my next review on Monday, not Sunday. I'm planning on that being a review of the first half of the latest Doctor Who season and, since I'm only getting around to seeing episode 7 on Saturday and I like to give myself at least a day between finishing a work and then reviewing it, I'm going to push back all the reviews just one day next week. See you then!

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