The Commoner

  • by John Burnham Schwartz
  • Narrated by Janet Song
  • 9 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"Schwartz pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

works on several levels

I usually wonder about the voice in novels whose protagonists' gender differs from the authors', let alone time period, age, and culture - but this novel seemed to ring true. -wonderful detail and perspective on post war Japan and a woman trapped in a culturally prescribed role. The narration was fantastic, too, and SO suitable to the character. It took a while to get into the novel but I found "The Commoner" a very satisfying and thought provoking listen, even if the ending was a bit fanciful - it fit.
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- connie "Narrative makes the world go round."

Very slow beginning

I just could not do it. The other person's review said it was slow to get into and it was. I just couldn't finish it. I loved the narrator's voice and usually love this type of book but I could not get through the beginning.

It is really not fair for me to rate the book. My rating is based on the beginning, not the whole book.
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- Susan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-22-2008
  • Publisher: Books on Tape