Atmosphere, espionage and intrigue around a murdered poet abound in this enthralling novel set in Tokyo in 1951.
Beautifully-written, smoothly-readable, and waltzing with elegance and the intrigue of espionage, Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s The Lantern Boats is an accomplished work of historical fiction. Melding criss-crossing personal stories with the bigger-picture political climate of occupied Japan, it’s rich in details of time and place, with swathes of charisma that make single-sitting readings all but impossible to resist. Adding to the intrigue, the book’s characters are based on real people.
The novel opens with an evocative scene describing the swell of the Sumida River illuminated by paper lanterns in a ritual for the dead, of which there are many as a result of the US firebombing raids that ended six years ago. Then we meet Kamiya Jun, a young war orphan with nothing - “no home, no family, no documents, no identity.” Being invisible makes him ideal spy material, and so he’s tasked by the Americans to spy on Vida Vidanto, a beautiful Japanese poet they suspect of being a communist spy.
Meanwhile, part-Japanese, part-Scottish Elly Ruskin feels compelled to spy on Vida herself - she suspects her journalist husband, Fergus, of having an affair with the poet, and all while they’re in the process of adopting a child. The worlds of spy and spied-on intermesh powerfully when Fergus finds Vida’s strangled body, and then follows a gripping quick-fire succession of secrets unveiled, a tragic casualty, and hopeful beginnings.
Against the backdrop of post-war Japan comes a powerful and heart-breaking novel of two displaced people from very different backgrounds, drawn into a web of espionage and betrayal with fatal consequences.
Elly Ruskin is trapped between worlds. Half-Japanese, half-Scottish, she is deported from Australia to Japan after the war, but Tokyo is a city Elly barely knows. In a whirlwind romance, she falls in love with a Scottish journalist and they marry.
Kamiya Jun is a teenage war orphan from the lost Japanese colony of Karafuto. He is smuggled to the mainland on a fishing boat. Captured by the police, he is handed over to the occupation forces, and finds himself unwillingly recruited to work in an underground intelligence unit run by a maverick American officer.
Now Elly thinks her husband is having an affair, and her suspicions will lead her down a treacherous path that will put everyone in danger. Jun might be the only person who can help her.
Discover an absolutely beguiling story of intrigue and the human spirit set against the backdrop of Japan in transition.
A beautifully written, deeply moving novel that will be read and re-read by fans of Ana Johns, Victoria Hislop, Dinah Jefferies, Fiona Valpy, Robert Goddard, Kate Morton and Louise Douglas.
|Publication date:||6th April 2021|
|Collections:||50+ Novels That Explore the Wonders of Asia, 50+ Beautifully Written Books,|
|Primary Genre||Historical fiction|
Closing date: 28/10/2021