It is 1959. Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the crown prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the mysterious, almost hermetically sealed, and longest-running monarchy in the world.Met with cruelty and suspicion by the empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is in her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, she suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. Determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, Haruko perseveres - 30 years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman, "a rising star in the foreign ministry", to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the crown prince. The consequences are tragic and dramatic.Told from Haruko's perspective, meticulously researched, and superbly imagined, The Commoner is the mesmerizing, moving, and surprising story of a brutally rarefied and controlled existence, at once hidden and exposed, and of a complex relationship between two isolated women who, despite being visible to all, are truly understood only by each other.More
"Schwartz pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world." (Publishers Weekly)
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works on several levels
Gender and Culture