Japan in the 1870s is on the cusp of change.
The flower and willow time of the Geisha and the Samurai is passing; the forward-thinking are adopting Western dress and more, educating their daughters, working in banks and eating beef. It is also a time of unrest where the ruling Satsuma clan are threatened by corruption within and the long memories and simmering revenge of the resentful and defeated Aiku. Against this background Nobu and Taka fall in love defying barriers of class and clan.
A Romeo and Juliet story set amongst the cherry trees, Taka’s mother is a renowned Geisha and her father a respected general; Nobu is a servant from the despised Aizu class. Their love is doomed and Taka is promised in an arranged marriage. However when civil war breaks out, positions are reversed and Taka flees south near her father’s mountain eyrie and Nobu is part of the opposing national forces. War is not a tea ceremony and Taka must forget her dancing and calligraphy and take up the halberd as a samurai woman.
This is an absorbing love story set in a turbulent and interesting period of history. Lesley Downer has written extensively on the Geisha culture and she draws on this knowledge and the true story of the Last Samurai to create a period-perfect romance with likeable and engaging characters. Love and revenge are powerful emotions, the plotline is strong and the setting fascinating making this a great summer read.