An insightful book about the changes of cultural Japan from 1856-1929 through the eyes of an American girl who is taken in by a Japanese family who's life work is tea. The relationship between the two main characters is well written and fluctuates with time, which makes it more real. The scenes when tea is served never gives too much information or detail but enough to allow the reader to follow along. Gets a bit long in the end but overall a great read for anyone who likes to take a chance on a new book or author.
I loved this book. To be honest, unless you are really interested in reading about Japanese culture, with a story mixed into it, you probably won't like this book. I, on the other hand, lovre reading about Japan, no matter what era; and absolutely love learning Japanese traditions and ways through the readings. There was a lot of situations in the story itself that were very surprising, but that was good. And this book actually teaches you about the traditions, rules, and expectations of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, or "temae". On another up hand, you'll learn a lot of Japanese words throughout the book as well.
The story takes place in the last half of the 19th century as Japan is opening up to the western world. A 9 year old American girl, just arrived in Japan with her uncle, suddenly finds herself an orphan and is taken in by a 15 year old Japanese girl's family. Gorgeous writing. So enjoyable I didn't want it to end.
The Teahouse Fire offers a sweeping look at a time of tremendous historical upheaval: 19th century Japan emerging from the Tokugawa Shogunate into the Meiji Restoration and opening up to the western world. Aurelia is the first-person fictional memoirist born in New York to a French mother and is brought to Kyoto, Japan by her missionary uncle. By a twist of fate she ends up adopted by the Shin household, masters and teachers of the Japanese tea ceremony. Aurelia, renamed Urako, is a servant-cum-confidante to Yukako as she navigates the family through uncertain times. The story is a bit slow-going at first as Aurelia is confused by the language barrier. Having studied the Japanese tea ceremony, Ellis Avery infuses the story with detailed but relevant accounts of chado. In fact, Avery does a very good job of incorporating the historical moment into the story arc instead functioning as a mere backdrop. There is a large supporting cast of characters, including many strong female characters, but they each have a role to play in this small world. I found the ending a bit contrived, but then so is the entire premise for this moving story about historical change, family obligation, longing, and love.
"Delicious" is the only way to describe this book. The writing is elegant, the main character's voice is so believable (even though she is in an unbelievable situation), and the attention to detail regarding language, clothing, and food is stunning.
Memoirs of a Geisha and Tales of Murasaki, of course, are the pearls of this genre, but The Teahouse Fire offers a wonderful look at lives centered around the tea ceremony. The life is seen from a variety of perspectives, including the devastation to traditional Japanese families caused by the Meiji Restoration.
The author's knowledge of her subject is impressive, her writing just superb, and the character development is mouth watering. If you enjoy reading a "Western" writer's attempt to introduce a foreign culture so strange to Americans and other Westerners, this is an enjoyable read.
I really loved the book and the window it presented into Japanese customs and culture before and after the cultural revolution! (aprox 1850-1920)
The only thing that made it 4 stars for me was it's lesbian theme. I would have thought at that time period such relationship would have been forbidden in Japan, and certainly difficult in USA.
Over all it was a worthy read that I would recommend!
I very much enjoyed this glimpse into Japanese culture, especially surrounding the tea ceremony and class structure. A very interesting and absorbing book.
As someone who loves reading about Japan, and was interested in Ellis Avery, I thought this book would be perfect. In some ways, it is: informative passages about Japan, descriptions of the meditative quality of the tea ceremony, and insights into family dynamics. In other ways, it's not: the heavy emphasis on the main character's out-of-placeness, her often strange behavior, and the lack of fleshed-out male characters. I did enjoy the larger arc about lesbian life, but not the misplaced longing for someone she had grown up with as a sister.
If you're interested in a story about a foreigner living in Japan, I recommend The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd.
This novel is set at a time when Japan is cautiously opening its doors to "foreigners." An American girl joins a Japanese teahouse family in a servant's role, and even she is shocked by the changes in the country over her lifetime.
I did not enjoy the book as much as "Memoirs of a Geisha," and found the plotline lacking.
I loved this book. It is well-researched and beautifully written.
I am giving this audio book FIVE stars. I enjoyed the story immensely plus the reader was just excellent. Japanese culture and living predominant in this story along with bisexuality but with the latter not overly much. I really, really liked this story.
Had been on my list for quite some time and finally read it. Turned out to be very good and I liked it a lot. Learned a lot about Japan during the late 1800's when they were opening up to the Western world and how that influence impacted all facets of life for the Japanese. The story was well told, the characters developed slowly and well. I highly recommend it.