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"Spring Snow" Book and Tea Club

148 Replies

So how does this work? One chapter at a time? Whole book at once?

Serenity said

My opinion? Dive in!

Good advice! I’ve been wanting to discuss since I finished a couple weeks ago. :)

Serenity said

Awesome!

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Serenity said

Just some questions to inspire conversation….
What did you like/love/dislike about Spring Snow?
What was your favorite part?
Did you learn anything new?

Thanks for the starter!

1) I really really reaaaally disliked the main protagonist, Kiyoaki. Why was he constantly making life harder for himself? He can’t have friends because he doesn’t like people to act like they care about him. He convinces himself that Satoko is some wily deceptive lady player, yet the moment he learns that she’s out of his reach, he has to have her. He literally risks his life to see her, yet he could have had her from the very beginning. What is wrong with youuuuuuu? I’m sure we were supposed to feel moved or pity for his ultimate demise, but the way he went about dying just makes me annoyed and angry. Sorta like how I can’t understand the “romance” of Romeo and Juliet. Teenagers doing stupid things and end up dying. NOT romantic.

I have to admit, Satoko is a bit sly at times, but he’d probably reject her out of hand if she were honest with him about her feelings and intentions. Much like how he rejects gestures of friendship from anyone who is actually acting friendly. So she probably just learned how to handle him (kinda) since they grew up together. And I really respect her integrity in vowing to never see Kiyo again, and actually keeping true to that vow.

Last annoyance – Mishimi kind of goes off on a tangent at times on philosophy and cultural values. I know from reading the background for this book that he was trying to make a statement, but I found it a bit heavy handed at times.

I loved the portrayal of characters here. They are intense and so life-like. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a melancholy and serious group of teenagers.

This is getting super long. I’ll stop for now.

Serenity said

Oh my gosh! Just: yes to ALL THE THINGS!

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teapot1 said

Not to butt into the middle of this discussion, BUT, has the next book been selected?

Serenity said

I don’t think we have! I could be wrong but I think what will happen is a new thread will get started after this discussion has been pretty much finished, I mean the discussion about Spring Snow. All can contribute their ideas for the next book at that time, if I have got that all right…!

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I’d like to throw my own question out there:

Why does Honda try so hard to remain Kiyoaki’s friend?

Serenity said

I know, right? I have no answer, but it does seem that some people seem so loyal. It is part of the very fiber of their being. Maybe Honda?

But you choose who to be loyal to. What’s the draw to Kiyoaki? Maybe Honda likes a challenge? Maybe he finds Kiyo’s character and personality fascinating? But it’s more than that because he truly cares about this guy.

I would normally describe Honda as wise beyond his years, but the fact that he doesn’t try harder to dissuade Kiyo from his affair with Satoko reminds me that he’s really still just a kid.

Serenity said

Yeah, I have no idea! I have seen in some cases when people are friends as kids, they feel as though they are nearly family and have a kind of loyalty that may be unreciprocated, may be unhealthy, even. Just thinking about that.

Sometimes there’s just feelings and no logic. But Honda is nothing not logical! What a mysterious friendship!

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Serenity said

Just some general probably incoherent remarks about Spring Snow:

Gorgeous, evocative, lyrical writing. I really admire an author who has such powers of description. That early scene where there was a procession? I felt as though I were there!

I like when books make me think and leave me with questions. Questions about cultures, questions about cultures changing, being influenced by others. Questions about the role of religion, about Buddhism, and Christianity.

When thinking about the Western influences in Japan at the time of the writing, I was thinking about the global nature of cuisine, especially of course: tea! So I enjoyed my green teas from China and Japan, and drank my Assam blend, and had that black tea with milk and the green teas without, naturally. Just musing and contemplating how cultures and countries can have such differences and similarities, what is shared and what is not.

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Steepster Book Club. It’s always good to have a thought provoking book to discuss.

I am with you on the gorgeous writing! I absolutely fell in love with “The Sound of Waves” for his lyrical style and breath taking imagery. I also learned that Mishimia’s writing is best appreciated when read twice, at least. Maybe it’s just my style of reading, but I like to go through quickly the first time I read something because I’m impatient to see what happens next. The second time around, I am able to take note of the style and message more thoroughly.

I, personally, have more questions about the changing role and power of government. There is still a royal family that has much prestige, but absolute obedience and loyal is no longer as strict. Influence of Western culture perhaps? Older noble families have social esteem but newer nobles have money and the power that comes with it. It’s a bit topsy turvy.

And what about the differences in Honda’s family vs. Kiyoaki’s? One is strictly dedicated to the highest morality (though I hesitate to use that word due to its subjectivity), while the other barely tries to hide its decadence and corruption. For example, Honda’s cousin lays her head on his lap in all innocence. Bam! Banned from family home forever. On the other hand, Kiyo’s father offers to take his teen son to Geishas for a “night out” and likes to have Kiyo walk with him to his mistress’ house just to hurt his wife (WTF?). Kiyo, I’m surprised to see, actually cares enough about his mother to stop walking with his father when he finds out what it’s all about. I see this is a bit of incongruence in his character, but maybe I judge him too harshly. In general, I would describe him as entirely self absorbed.

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I’m obviously thinking too much about this book. I miss my college Lit classes. haha

Topic #2!
What are your thoughts on the significance of Kiyoaki’s dreams and his obsession with them?

Serenity said

Great question!

Serenity said

I remember reading quite some time ago that there was a form of buddhism where prophetic dreams and reincarnation were important themes, and that Mishima was referencing this.

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Topic 3! Character analysis!

Tadeshina (Satoko’s maid)
Iinuma (Kiyo’s tutor)
The Siamese Princes

Now that I think about it, my numbering seems random. Just ignore me. I’m excited!

Serenity said

Go for it, analyze those characters!

I’d like to hear some other thoughts as I feel like I’m dominating the conversation. So I will wait a bit. :)

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I really enjoyed reading this book, the writing was lyrical and thoughtful.
My favorite quote from the book:
“Time is what matters, as time goes by, you and I will be carried inexorably into the mainstream of our period even though we are unaware of it.”
We do not recognize our great moments, but future historians will be impressed with our fortitude. I just visited the Bishop Palace in Galveston TX. This mansion was built in the late 1800’s. I was transported into that time period, I wanted to know more about the original owners of the house. I am sure they never dreamed That the house they had built to raise their family would still be around over 100 years later and would have such a profound effect on the visitors to the house in 2013. Just like Sakoto had no idea the power that her inability to be honest about her feelings or how her decision to join the convent would impact Kiyo and ultimately impact Honda. If she could have been more honest things could have been different…but in Her time period, she acted as she thought she could. I was left with a feeling of this was such a waste all the way around.

Serenity said

I love your insights, connecting these things…

Insightful thought! I often think about how the future generation will view mine. Will our fashion be a joke like the mullets of the 90s? Will our civil rights struggle be lauded for decades to come? Satoko is caught in her time period. Was her escape to a convent actually a cowards way out? It was she doing the only thing she could do for herself?

I want to say it was a bit of both. Cowardly for not speaking up for herself in the first place. Selfish for putting both her and Kiyo in the situation…she had to have known it was not going to end well. In the end, she did what she thought she could live with the rest of her days on earth.

Interesting that you should say that about her putting them into that situation! I’m reminded of that incriminating letter she sent to Kiyo after her betrothal despite her maid’s warning that it could be used against her. Did she want him to have the tool he needed to compell her actions and convince Tadeshina to let them do as they wished? I think it’s pretty clear she had no objections to how it turned out. She knew they had to stop eventually. I don’t know what she would have done if she wasn’t brought to the convent though. Just give birth in her room?
In the end I think they are equally culpable but Kiyo is less likable so I feel like I want to blame him for everything. :)

Remember that it was Kiyo’s parents that arranged for the abortion and then the cover up story of visiting the head nun before her wedding.
I want to blame Kiyo for everything also:)

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Serenity said

I always love reading people’s insights, questions, and observations about books.

While I can always find positive things about a book to remark upon, I will share that this book, Spring Snow, did not cast a spell on me. I found it hard to ‘get into’ so to speak. While I can appreciate so much about it, I never fell in love with it; never got lost in the fictive dream of it. I can tell that this is making it challenging for me to truly delve into the book, so I’m taking the path of encouraging conversation about it. I am so glad so many people love this book, that makes me happy. : )

One thing I love about reading is how people can have different reactions to a book.

I was also thinking about all the novels that had a Japanese theme that I have read and loved. Here’s a page of a whole list, of novels set in Japan wow, there are many!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Novels_set_in_Japan

One that I have read pretty recently for another book club is If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous; I’m not sure if that’s on the above list or not, but I really enjoyed it.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a novelist who I think is a marvelous writer.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazuo_Ishiguro

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama was a novel I read more than once, I found it so beautiful.

And of course, one of the most celebrated Japanese novelists, Haruki Murakami. Some of his novels I’ve appreciated but I can’t say I fall in love with his books, but here’s a review of one of his most famous, if you are curious:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/11/02/reviews/971102.02jamest.html

I’ll check back in later today if at all possible, thanks for reading and discussing with me!

This was indeed not easy to fall into. It requires a bit of effort. I was willing to work on it since my experience with Mishima has let me know that his works require extra thought, but for me, it’s worth it. You learn to appreciate it and you become intimate with the main characters. They are like family more than friends since you don’t necessarily want to spend time with them, yet you know them so deeply.

Serenity said

Right on… I just wanted to to be honest.
For some reason, some books at certain times…it just doesn’t click.
Middlemarch is a good example of the opposite happening. It is dense, requires work as you so rightly express, and I just loved it from the first time I read it.
Perhaps another time, I’ll pick up Spring Snow again, and find myself loving it.
I do want to stress, though: I do know this book is very well written by a very talented author. It’s just one of those, “…it’s me…” things!

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Serenity said

Just checking in on a Friday: so far we have Mercuryhime and threewhales contributing and I just want to encourage anyone else who may want to join in the discussion: you can jump in any time! You can talk about the book….about the teas you drank… Perhaps this weekend we’ll have some more people chiming in here and there.

Serenity said

…and also, it’s really okay if you did not finish the book or did not care for the book… and you still want to talk about what you read…or what tea you really loved or didn’t love.

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