The Gilded Fan
Every so often a book comes along that seems like it’ll just pull you in…and it doesn’t. You open it up, read the first few pages or chapters, and then look at your TBR pile and go, “Nah. I’ve got plenty of other things to read that actually interest me.” It’s not that this book is bad, just that it’s not what you want to read right now. Maybe you’ll never get around to it, and that’s okay.
Well, unless you’re a reviewer. Then you have to make reading The Gilded Fan a priority at some point.
Midori Kumashiro is a half-English, half-Japanese girl enjoying her life in Japan in 1641 when the shogun up and declares that all foreigners are to leave Japan or die. Although Midori has lived in Japan her entire life and follows all Japanese traditions and beliefs, her beautiful green eyes mark her as foreign. As a result, she’s forced to flee to England on a Dutch trading ship, the Zwarte Zwaan, in hopes of finding refuge with her mother’s family.
Nico Noordholt, captain of the Zwarte Zwaan, isn’t too excited about his new passenger. She’s beautiful and distracting not only for the crew, but for himself as well. He worries about her and is tempted by her presence constantly—a problem which is not helped by the number of hours he spends with her, explaining English customs and discussing the Bible. As they get closer to England they begin to discuss her family as well, and it is then that Nico learns she’s a member of his stepmother’s family, the Marstons.
This, of course, creates problems all around. Nico doesn’t have a good relationship with anyone in his family. In fact, they haven’t heard from him for the past thirteen years and most presume him to be dead. When he comes to Plymouth to bring Midori to stay with them there’s an uproar over his status as a living being, which is compounded by Midori’s anger over the fact that he kept his relationship to her family from her. This leads to a sort of estrangement between the two, which lasts for most of the rest of the book as Midori acclimates to European life and helps with the war effort (this was during the English Civil War). At the very end Midori and Nico finally confess their feelings and jump into a relationship, leading them to their happily ever after.
There are a few things I liked about this book, and a few things I didn’t. I enjoyed the scope of the story—it covered years, not days, it covered two countries and cultures, not one, and it covered the civil war. The book didn’t have one central conflict, but rather followed Midori and the various issues she was dealing with over the course of years. Midori herself was depicted well, too—although she feels strongly about standing by her Japanese customs, she’s also open to learning English ways and exploring her new culture.
However, these good points are tempered by some bad points. Midori and Nico’s relationship didn’t quite satisfy me. Although I understand that feelings toward a person can change greatly with time, the transition from friends to lovers at the end of the book was much too abrupt for me. I wish that this book rated only “Kisses” on the sensuality scale, and that Midori and Nico ended it engaged. I think that would have been more in line with the rest of the story.
Overall, I would say The Gilded Fan was an okay book. The writing is fairly good, in general, although as I mentioned before it didn’t quite pull me in. I was satisfied but not thrilled, and I think that although I might end up reading something by the author again someday, I don’t necessarily see that day coming any time soon.