“Shogun” a rollicking……….

I was going to say a rollicking good novel by James Clavell. But I think I might be exaggerating a bit there; but I digress before I start what I wanted to write.

At my tender age I really don’t see the point of buying more books, although saying that I suppose I’ve bought nine or ten so far this year which seems quite a waste really because when I die in the not too distant future I  suppose they will probably all be tossed out. Unless my daughter Emma decides she’ll keep them which is a possibility, I’m sure she’ll want my Jane Austen collection which she will read to her daughter Ruby often.

But I have a need to read, it’s always been my greatest pleasure so I’m reading through some of my old books again, some I have not picked up in yonks! ‘Shogun‘ is one of those.

It must be going on 35 – 40 years since I bought my copy (or should I say copies for it comes in two volumes)  of  ‘Shogun’. The pages have all turned a dirty greyish/yellowy colour, the paper quality wasn’t of the greatest; it was manufactured and printed in the United States of America and one wonders at their advertising the fact so blatantly.

The reason there are two volumes is of course because it’s long. It runs to 1101 pages.

To get back to the book. I read it a couple of weeks ago and I must admit it took me a while to plough through it; best part of six days in fact. I really didn’t take a lot of interest in what I was reading; or so I thought, I read the story through chopping heads off right left and centre, all marvellous fun and when I finished I read Spike Milligan‘s “Puckoon”  just for something bright and breezy.

Then “Shogun” started to play on my mind and I was getting a bit agitated and not knowing why, decided I had to read it through again. (I’m not really a masochist!) So I did; and what a load of twaddle it deteriorated into.

Mr Clavell was the son of a Commander, Royal Navy who was born in Australia whilst his father was on secondment to the Royal Australian Navy; however he did not follow in his father’s footsteps instead joining the Royal Artillery .

He was captured by the Japanese during WWII and incarcerated in the notoriously infamous prison Changi! He was lucky to survive not many did survive Changi!

After his treatment at the hands of the Japanese it’s not surprising that he decided to write his saga’s set in Japan but to write with such warmth, respect and knowledge of his tormentors is!

This story starts well and he keeps the plot going along smoothly but in the second volume it starts to slide downhill slowly and really becomes quite inane; and fizzle out with a resounding pop! (Was he getting bored with it I wonder).

For some reason Mr Clavell went off on a sexual excursion delving into all the delights of a Darlinghurst sex shop. A load of rot and he perseveres and carries on with it incessantly; why and for what purpose I know not. It does nothing for the story from what I can see.

Then in one chapter we get ‘Mommy’ thrown up at us. Mommy? Mr Clavell born an Englishman using the word ‘Mommy’? Was he trying to pamper to an American audience or was it perhaps American proof readers changing his manuscript. I noticed that the infantile Mr Webster’s spelling and dictionary is used throughout so perhaps it wasn’t the author but some ignorant proof reader. ( I’ve made my feelings on the US misspellings known on previous occasions so I won’t trouble you again).We also get ‘Father Christmas‘ thrown in for good measure. At the time the story’s set ‘Father Christmas’ had not as yet materialized.

Niggling little things like this keep creeping into the story.

The story revolves around the Lord Toranaga’s quest to become ‘Shogun’ something he denies he wants to be throughout the story (but we all know otherwise). As Shogun he will effectively be the ruler of all Japan, the Emperor is just a ‘Divine’ figurehead with no real power, The Shogun is head honcho and if you don’t like it he’ll have your head, heads literally fly.

For a thousand pages or more we know there is going to be a great battle, a battle that Toranaga is a dead cert to lose. All the intrigue, useless slaughter sexual activity all leading us to the fatal moment when we go off to war. Page 1100, Lord Toranaga is musing about what will happen if and when he wins the war.

Off to war we go, the last page, the penultimate paragraph. Fifty three words and the battle is over and won, Toranaga’s the victor and there are 40 thousand heads taken; see I told you heads would roll.

That’s it folks 1100 pages leading up to the war that’s knocked off in 53 words. And then the final paragraph? 

And that just tells us what happened to Toranaga’s mortal foe; and if you want to know you’ll have to plough your way through 1100 pages, lessons in sexual deviations for want of a better expression, murders, suicides filth and squalor; hot baths a’plenty,

All in all a rollicking long novel, I don’t know about a rollicking good one, it had all the bones to start and it slid slowly into the ‘Void’ to which all the poor buggers who lost their heads in the story were consigned.

2 thoughts on ““Shogun” a rollicking……….

  1. Brian,
    good to see you back writing your blog.
    At about the time you purchased your two volumes of “Shogun”, I was thinking that I must buy it and have a read. I never did. Now I know it isn’t worth the effort. I’ll read some of Alice Munro’s short stories instead.


    1. Thanks Neill, there is a lot in the books of an historical bent which I found quite interesting and which rings true, it’s just that the author goes a bit silly at times. Pampering to the voyeurs I suspect.
      Dopey daughter is coming over next week end and if you’d like to have a read I’m only too happy to send the books over with her and she can leave them at your door if your not home.

      I recall reading Mr Clavell’s “Taipan” back in the late 60’s might have been the early 70’s and my memory of that book is that it was a good read. I wonder what I’d think now; perhaps I’ll get a copy and see if I still feel the same about it, it’s only a short story around 700-750 pages 🙂 Something else to drive the War Office up the wall, she gets a bit fed up seeing me with my head stuck in a book.

      Thank you again for your kind comments I shall try and get back into writing blogs more frequently.

      Cheers Brian


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