Spring Snow (Sea of Fertility I)
Japan 1912. The Meiji era has just ended, and the old ranks of aristocrats are slowly giving way to a new class of rich people who are staking their claims at the top of society. Kiyoaki Matsugae, of lower samurai class, has been raised by the aristocratic Ayakuya family, together with their daughter Satoko, who is two years older. Kiyoaki’s complex feelings for Satoko eventually blossom into a tender young love, which is destroyed because both lovers avoid being open with each other. Only when Satoko is promised to an Imperial Prince do they recognize what they are about to lose, but now it is too late for a happy ending…
This is one of those romances where you’d like to slap both parties and force them to speak to each other. Much pain would have been avoided. And yet, Mishima draws a detailed picture of the time with all the scheming going on so that the Matsugaes can advance their position and the Ayakuras can at least keep theirs.
I greatly enjoyed this book; the romance between the two youths is only a part of it, which is growing in importance towards the climax. I loved the insight into Japan of the early 20th century, and Mishima once again is able to draw up splendid pictures in your mind’s eye.
Yukio Mishima (1925 – 1970; pen name of Kimitake Hiraoka) is considered one of Japan’s greatest authors. When he was 16, he got a story published in a very prestigious literary magazine, the editors of which thought him a genius already. After the war, Mishima was taken under the wing of Yasunari Kawabata. Both of them were considered for the Nobel Prize of 1968, but the elder Kawabata received it. Mishima wrote 34 novels in total, and committed ritual suicide after a failed coup attempt.
This book is the first of four novels that make up the “Sea of Fertility” cycle, which were the last four books written by Mishima before his suicide. I have read them all, and will give a final verdict when I post the last one. In the meantime, you can get this one from amazon and judge for yourself.
Your review has intrigued me, so I’ve put a hold on it at the library. If I like it, I know I have 3 more novels to look forward to. Thanks!
Just to make this clear: It’s not just a romance between two youths, there is so much more going on. I loved the view into Japan of that era and how quickly everything changed – and what didn’t.
Spoiler alert: Spring Snow is considered the best of the four “Sea of Fertility” books – and I have to agree…