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Topic: Nov BOM: The Snow Fox Discussion pgs. 1-90

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Subject: Nov BOM: The Snow Fox Discussion pgs. 1-90
Date Posted: 10/31/2008 6:54 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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I was able to get through the first section this weekend, but just now was able to sit down on the computer to gather some thoughts.  I noticed there are group discussion questions at the back of the book, so I thought I'd try to put some of my own observations out there and then pull in the questions where they seem appropriate as we go through the sections.

Having spent alot of time in Asia, my first thoughts are how typical and sad Lady Utsu's story seems so far.  Beautiful, young woman taken in by an older, powerful man who claims to protect and take care of her, but really manipulates her for his own needs and pleasures.  Sadly, it is still a very common scene today.  I work for a defense contractor, so have frequent interaction with very high level military personnel, etc. and they all have a distinguished "first wife" and then very young, "China-doll like" "other wives".  They even introduce them as their "second wives".  Lord Norimasa claims to care for Lady Utsu, raising her from a child, but as she turns into a woman he feels free to bring her to his bed.  And it appears from the prologue he later does the same with her daughter.  Of course, this leads to a debate that I've had with my colleagues - is the young woman being taken advantage of?  Or does she have just as much to gain from this arrangement as the man who does?  Who really is in the position of power in such an arrangement?

Does Lord Norimasa truly feel badly for changing Lady Utsu through the murder he asked her to commit?  Lady Utsu seemingly followed his orders so easily....did she do this out of fear or because she felt she had something to gain?

Do you think Lord Norimasa asked Lady Utsu to murder Lord Tsurunosuke because it really is his best option, and he was a traitor?  Or was it jealousy?  And, if it was jealousy, then why would he send Matsuhito to her?

Reading Group Discussion Questions - The majority of the questions look like they'll come into play later in the book.  I do think this one is relevant this early on, however. 

  • The events of The Snow Fox take place over 800 years ago when customs were very different and people's views of the world were dissimiliar.  When you read a historical novel, do you hope to acquire information about another era or do you also read such a novel expecting to illuminate your own life, different as it may be?  Did reading The Snow Fox cast any such light on your own view of the world?

When I read HF, I often find myself drawing parallels to my current perspectives.  And I definitely believe we have much to learn from the past.  I do not think I could enjoy a novel if I could not relate to the characters in some way, even if they do live in a completely different place and era.



Last Edited on: 11/3/08 8:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/3/2008 6:31 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Am I the only one who hasn't started this book yet?  LOL!  I see no discussion.  I'm finishing The Secret Magdalene tonight and plan on starting the BOM tomorrow. Hopefully I can join the discussion in the next day or two! 

Date Posted: 11/4/2008 9:57 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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I've finished it, actually. I found the first chapters disjointed and hard to get into. Re the group reading questions Michelle copied out for us above, I know I hope to gain information on a different time's customs, behavior and if a book is well done, perhaps even thought patterns, etc. I don't specifically analyze them against my own, but I do find myself often wondering at the path that has led from there (wherever I am reading in) to here (my reality)---and when a HF novel is well done, I can find the seeds of today and trace the path.

As for musing about relationships such as Norimasa and Utu's, those certainly do exist today, and will always exist as long as men desire women. I think power comes in different forms and it is hard to say which version of 'power' is more 'valuable'--Norimasa can make others do anything he wishes by fear and force....but who makes him do things? Is it not Utu? I have known incredibly powerful men, men who control multimillions, who rule boardrooms and make or break politicians...make interesting choices as a result of the bedroom.  Our society has chosen to embrace only the male version of power, and to denigrate the female version....rather than to celebrate both as simply different.

I think the single event of Norimasa asking Utu to murder Lord T represents the intersection between these two different types of power...I tend to think Norimasa may have chosen Utu as his instrument just to see how far she would go for him--as a matter of ego and loyalty. He certainly would have had other options.

Date Posted: 11/6/2008 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Well, I'm almost to page 90, so I'll pipe in! I'm enjoying the book.  The author does have somewhat of a clipped writing style, but I don't mind that. 

Colleen - Did you find the book to go more smoothly for you once you got past the first chapters which you found disjointed and hard to get into?

Regarding the discussion -

Actually, I do feel that Norimasa does have some guilt for asking Lady Utsu to commit the murder.  I believe he sincerely believes that  Tsurunosuke's murder was necessary and that Lady Utsu was a good option.   However, I'm sure he also used the murder to test Lady Utsu.  Although the murder certainly is to his own benefit, and thus his primary motivator, I think Norimasa is saddened by the change it brought in Lady Utsu.  As to whether or not he suspects Utsu and Matsuhito will become lovers and that's why he sends Matsuhito to guard her, that I can't say.  It may be more a matter of Matsuhito being the one person Norimasa trusts to guard Lady Utsu, who is apparently quite important to him.

As to who is the victim in the powerful man/subservient woman scenario, I think it depends on the situation.  Obviously if the woman is used solely for sex or something, than there is no question the man in power is the one who benefits.  However, in this particular situation, it seems that Lady Utsu does hold considerable power, even over Norimasa himself. I think I need to read more before making any final conclusions.

As far as the last discussion point, I think I read HF (and almost any book) with a bit of self-examination and reflection.  I often find myself wondering what I would do if put in a similar situation as a character in a book.  It can be very enlightening! 

 

Date Posted: 11/7/2008 9:57 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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Shelley--honestly, I don't know if it got more smooth, or if I got used to her style, but yes, I did get into the stories and found myself trying to relate them as I read to to the introduction of the story of the 4 children...

Date Posted: 11/7/2008 6:08 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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I am ashamed to say that I have only read 20 pages of it so far. I'm hoping to get more read this weekend.

Date Posted: 11/8/2008 9:06 AM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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Sadly, I have not gotten any further yet or read ANYTHING for that matter, work has been so crazy.  Hopefully I'll get more into it this weekend....

I agree with Colleen that it is somewhat disjointed at first, so I'm looking forward to getting more into it and hoping it comes more together.

Date Posted: 11/8/2008 6:54 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I'm about 115 pages in, and while I'm not finding it a difficult read, I keep feeling like I'm missing something, I'm not that invested yet.

Date Posted: 11/13/2008 5:25 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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I'm just about to the 90 page mark and have no real desire to read anymore, but I guess I'll go ahead and finish it. The writing is so stilted! No flow here at all. I don't care about any of the characters, and, like Mimi said, I'm not invested yet.  

This author actually wrote one of my most favorite books from my teen years, Anya, and, now, I'm wondering what I'd think of it if I re-read it as an adult. These two books don't seem like they are from the same author at all!

Date Posted: 11/13/2008 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Valli - Keep at it.  It does get better.  At least I thought so. I go back and forth.  Sometimes I don't enjoy it, but other times I like it very much.  Now I just want to get to the end so I can figure out if overall I liked it or I didn't.  LOL! 

Date Posted: 11/15/2008 4:21 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Thanks, Shelley! I actually find moments when I like it very much and then it veers off and I'm yawning again, or, even worse, confused about just what is going on.

I do feel that Norimasa was sorry that the murder changed Utsu so much, and I think he was actually surprised that it did bother her so badly because he thought of her as more like him, but I'm not entirely sure if the murder was necessary for the good of Japan, more for his own benefit, or done out of jealousy. Maybe a mixture of all three! He seems to have a very complicated personality and I'd guess that I'll understand him a bit better as the book moves along. He obviously cares greatly for her, and has since she was a child, but he also isn't adverse to using her if needed. I wonder if he chose Utsu to do the killing simply to test her loyalty to him. He seemed to have enjoyed having her as a smart and beautiful "pet" as she was growing up, and perhaps he now thinks that asking her to murder someone she cares about will fully bind her to him.

As for Utsu having power of her own, I'm not really seeing how she has any power at all yet, but that will probably change after the murder. She may very well gain the upper hand in this relationship because he feels badly about her being hurt. It seems odd to me that he would ask Matsihitu to watch over her because it seems as if the entire household is set up so that no man can see or get to know any of the women. Maybe he knows that she needs someone else to love so that she can be more of the Utsu that she was before the murder. If so, that is an incredibly giving thing for him to do considering that he loves her himself. Very complicated relationships here!

"The events of The Snow Fox take place over 800 years ago when customs were very different and people's views of the world were dissimiliar.  When you read a historical novel, do you hope to acquire information about another era or do you also read such a novel expecting to illuminate your own life, different as it may be?  Did reading The Snow Fox cast any such light on your own view of the world?"

I definitely read historical novels to gain information about other times. I can't usually relate to the things that are happening in some novels, but I can relate to the relationships and emotions between people.