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Gai-Jin: The Epic Novel of the Birth of Modern Japan, Written by: James Clavell, and Narrated by: John Lee. I have long been a James Clavell admirer. I believe King Rat, and Shogun are engaging stories that make you a smarter human being. Tai Pan and Nobel house are cross cultural novels that make learning another value system and getting involved in either swashbuckling or business stories, fun. So when Audible decided to publish the “Asian” series, which is simply a compendium of this works, I thought I would listen to my prior reads and catch up on the ones I have yet to experience. I strongly recommend the above Clavell novels. As for Gai-Jin:
Gai-Jin is about 50 hours of listening. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is about 60. Spend your hours reading War and Peace. If you have already read War and Peace, read it again, instead of spending your hours on Gai-Jin. If you have read or listened to War and Peace, do it a second or third time rather than spend your time on Gai-Jin. There is very little here, particularly compared to Clavell’s above listed stories and certainly compared to Tolstoy.
This is a story about a very much hourly glass shaped and beautiful faced French woman who finds her way to Japan and is honed in on by every man in existence in an effectively otherwise barren western woman environment. Beauty is an enchanting allure. One though, gets tired of Clavell mentioning it endlessly – and you want to yell, please get on with the nonplused story. Oh, yes, the story. Very unlikely things happen to our heroine and she matriculates from a naive flirt to a Machiavellian dynamo. The crux of the story is this metamorphosis but there is no intellectual analysis or Freudian projections into why this is occurring. That’s the story. It can mildly entertain, but truly not worth 50 hours – maybe six, possibly nine.
Clavell’s prior works, give in depth analysis into medieval Japanese values, and explain why their society may be considered superior to Western, or teach one of the Chinese value system and compare it to capitalism, and in King Rat, speak of pride and/or disgust in humankind. None of that intellectual stuff is allowed here. In fact, there is lots of unexplained chatter of the Japanese system of government, but it is not intertwined with or juxtaposed against the Western systems. No measurement of oriental versus the British colonial value system. The book leaves each skeletally discussed and effectively never the two are intermixed to give one a comparative study.
Yet, the reading by John Lee was magnificent. He is truly a genius. Almost made the 50 hour fun. Almost.
Enough said. Find another Clavell or do consider Tolstoy.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
I really disliked this book. Reason simple, the two main characters drove me nuts. I couldn't stand them. I finished the book, but screamingly so. First James Clavell book I haven't liked.
If you’ve listened to books by James Clavell before, how does this one compare?
I loved Shogun and Tai-Pan, this book weaned me off his books.
Which scene was your favorite?
A scene which wasn't in the book
Could you see Gai-Jin being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
3 of 3 people found this review helpful