The Tale of Murasaki

My plan for the new year is not necessarily to review every book I read, but instead to focus on the fantatstically good or fantastically bad ones. This one is terrible.

The Tale of Murasaki is about a real woman that lived in Japan 1000 years ago. She wrote a book called The Tale of Genji that is still translated today. I have never heard of Genji, but it’s supposed to be a big deal. This novel is based on the diary of Murasaki, and the author’s knowledge of the time period.

After reading this, I am very glad that I don’t live in fuedal Japan. Either it was massively boring, or Liza Dalby managed to suck all the fun out of it. Even when the palace burns down (which seems to happen once a week), or main characters die, very little actually occurs. There is no drama.

I can’t really word it any other way: this book is BORING. I think this and other Asian-esque books benefit from the success of Amy Tan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Readers love those books and want more like it, so they pick up something with Asian art on the cover. I know that’s why I grabbed this, but don’t make the same mistake I did! Save yourself!!

I even fought my way all the way through this one, thinking eventually something noteworthy would happen. Nope. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “Not even good when you have insomnia”. That’s pretty bad.



January 17, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Reviews.


  1. Sara A. replied:

    I read her book Geisha and found it to be pretty interesting. She actually became a maiko as a white gaijin in like the 70’s.

    I haven’t read this book but I have found a lot of traditional Japanese literature to be kind of boring though. I think a lot gets lost in translation.

    • thatcleverchick replied:

      You can have my copy if you want it. I was aware she became a geisha, and it’s possible her other book was interesting. The context of it being a history instead of a novel could make a difference.

      I completely agree with you about things being lost in translation. This book has tons of tiny poems woven throughout, with almost none of the significance explained. As a white lady, you’d think she’d be better at explaining it to those of us who aren’t as familiar with ancient Japanese culture as she is, but no. This was just not my cup of tea.

      • Sara A. replied:

        No, that’s ok, I’ll take your word on it. I just wanted to say her other book was interesting.

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