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Lesley Downer’s mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia.But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring.She lived there for a total of some fifteen years.It has been an ongoing love affair.
She has written many books about the country and its culture.To research Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, she lived among the geisha and little by little found herself being transformed into one of them. Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, is the story of the turn-of-the-century Japanese actress who was the model for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
Lesley has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4, the BBC and NHK.She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year. The Last Concubine is her first novel.
Unified after a bitter civil war, Japan is rapidly turning into a modern country with rickshaws, railways and schools for girls. Commoners can marry their children into any class, and the old hatred between north and south is over - or so it seems. Taka is from the powerful southern Satsuma clan which now dominates the country, and her father, General Kitaoka, is a leader of the new government. Nobu, however, is from the northern Aizu clan, massacred by the Satsuma in the civil war. Defeated and reduced to poverty, his family has sworn revenge on the Satsuma. Taka and Nobu's love is unacceptable to both their families and must be kept secret, but what they cannot foresee is how quickly the tables will turn. Many southern samurai become disillusioned with the new regime, which has deprived them of their swords, status and honour. Taka's father abruptly leaves Tokyo and returns to the southern island of Kyushu, where trouble is brewing. When he and his clansmen rise in rebellion, the government sends its newly-created army to put them down. Nobu and his brothers have joined this army, and his brothers now see their chance of revenge on the Satsuma. But Nobu will have to fight and maybe kill Taka's father and brothers, while Taka now has to make a terrible choice - between her family and the man she loves...
Inspired by real historical events, this utterly engrossing sweeping historical novel blends fact and fiction, suspense and sensuality in an epic story of love at a time of war. It will have you hooked from page one. Lesley Downer's debut novel, The Last Concubine, was one of the biggest selling debuts of 2008 and was shortlist for the Pure Passion awards. She is also the author of Geisha: the Secret History of a Vanishing World.
Shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2009. Straddling the civil war in Japan in the mid-19th century, this is the story of an adopted girl, Sachi, who rises to be the chief concubine of the Shogun. The ladies of the court are protected from the extraordinary upheavals in the country but eventually the palace is destroyed and the ladies scattered. There is a lot of history here, particularly social, which one would expect from this author who has written many books about Japan and its culture. This is her first novel. Comparison: Arthur Golden, Anchee Min, Lisa See.
Shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2009. Set in Japan in the late 19th century this is an epic love story and a fascinatingly well researched historical novel to boot. The 1880's in Japan were a time of revolution, old ways of tradition were being swept away and we experience it through the eyes of Sachi, once a lowly peasant girl now elevated to the giddying heights of concubine to the Shogun.