This lengthy novel was a recommendation by a friend, who was reading it for her book club. It begins with a description of a midwife (Orita) delivering a baby at great risk to the mother and child. Orita is credited for saving the child’s life but this first scene sets in motion the detailed, historical novel that intertwines her life with the life of Jacob De Zoet, a Dutch clerk who works for a Dutch Trading company. Much of the story occurs at the port where the Dutch entered Japan in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The book is filled with Japanese and European history, scenes of violence and tales of deceit. Despite Jacob’s love for the midwife, fate keeps them apart. During the story, there are many interesting characters and I would be curious to see how much of the story is truly representative of the history of that time.
Although this author has been a finalist for the Man Booker prize, I found this book a challenge to finish. While the history was interesting, the descriptions were sometimes lengthy and it took some time to keep the many characters straight. In the final chapters and the tale was wrapped up nicely. This was not a page-turner that I would stay up late to finish!