The tale of Murasaki : a novel

by Liza Crihfield Dalby

Paper Book, 2000





New York : Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, c2000.


One of the famous work of Japanese literature is the eleventh-century Tale of Genji by a woman of the imperial court. This title evokes Murasaki's close family, the men and women she loved, the vortex of high politics she was drawn into at court, and the way in which Murasaki came to write her masterpiece.

User reviews

LibraryThing member janeajones
This is a fictionalized biography of Lady Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the world's first novel, [The Tale of Genji]. While Dalby is obviously very knowledgeable about Heian Japan and Murasaki's writings, I found this book oddly flat and a bit tedious. Perhaps it's because I have read quite a bit of literature from the period and have been fascinated with Heian Japan, that I find a modern historical novel somewhat lacking. It's probably a very good gateway into the courtly world of Murasaki and 11th century Japan for anyone not very familiar with the customs or the literature. However, given the choice, I would definitely recommend reading [The Tale of Genji] and experiencing the beautifully ephemeral otherness of that world over [The Tale of Murasaki].… (more)
LibraryThing member pdxwoman
I'm generally interested in Japanese history, having studied it in college and living in Japan for a short time. Since The Tale of Murasaki has had terrific reviews, I was excited to read this fictional account of the author of the world's first novel. Unfortunately, I found it tedious.

The title character struggles with the same questions and doubts through hundreds of pages. She comes across as a self-absorbed, self-important woman who, at the same time, suffers from doubt about her writing skills and worthiness to be at court.

If you would be excited to read page after page describing the 15 layers of fabric on someone's court dress (and do it again fifty pages later), if you can't get enough double entendre waka (poetry style pre-dating haiku), if you just love to hear that the Imperial Palace has burned down (for the 12th time), this book is for you.
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LibraryThing member piano3646
I loved reading this book. Based on a real author from historical Japan. Elegantly written and very believable. The writing style gave it the authentic tranquility and serenity of ancient Japan.
LibraryThing member maryreinert
I picked this book up only because it was historical fiction and I did enjoy "Memoirs of a Geisha"; however, this is much different and at first I was rather disappointed. I didn't particularly like the first person narrative and what I thought of as the "weird little phrases" of poetry interspersed, but I kept reading. I was soon pulled in and could not put it down. Not that I especially liked the character of Muraski, but I so enjoyed the visit to 11th century Japan.

I agree with those that remarked on the lack of background regarding the politics and religion that shape this novel, but I didn't find it overwhelming. Instead, it spurred my interest to investigate further.

It is hard to judge the qualities of characters that are living in a world so far from our own. The exchanges of "waka" seem bizarre at first, but I actually found myself looking at my own surroundings (especially nature) in a new light. Although the author, I felt, was too detailed, too wordy (especially in the long descriptions of colors and kimonos), we could all learn something about saying so much in so few words.

How enthralling to briefly inhabit a world without time;

how much my time has changed.
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LibraryThing member banshea
This book combines the remaining diary of Murasaki Shikibu as well as some educated guesses about the development of her famous work, The Tale of Genji. The result is a wonderful piece of historical fiction, presented as Murasaki's memoirs. If The Tale of Genji is a little daunting, this work has much of the flavor of the classic in a much more accessible form.… (more)
LibraryThing member dhelmen
I continue to read and re-read this ever 3 or 4 months. The fragrant and melancholy atmosphere of Heian Nobility is perfectly captured and a impossibly alien culture becomes approachable and understandable. The story is captivating and the setting is more so. Reading this is like taking a vacation and leaves one strangely suprised with the modern world when one looks up fromt he page. I recommend this to anyone who wants a refreshing change from mainstream historical fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member lenoreva
About the author of "the Tale of Genji". Has some interesting points (the Japanese used to dye their teeth black), but the author spends too much time detailing the clothes they are wearing so it gets a bit tedious. Still, it managed to be engaging enough that I read the whole thing. Recommended only if you are totally in Japanese culture or historical fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member MoiraStirling
Thoroughly enjoyed this fictional biography. The imagery is achingly gorgeous, the poetry is beautiful...I found myself hoping this would be adapted into a movie (it would be easily done). The Murasaki of Dalby's imagining is an enigmatic character. I will definitely be seeking out the Tale of Genji.
LibraryThing member athaena
A fascinating imagining of the life of Murasaki, the author of The Tale of Genji in ancient Japan. Exotic and lyrical.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Detailed depiction of life in 11th century Japan. With writing as an outlet for our main character - a woman we get glimpses of as she makes her way through life. She writes poetry, a diary and a huge novel and her actual writing flows in/around this historical novel about her.
LibraryThing member Jspig
The book was well written, and the descriptions of 11th century Japan were beautiful and very well researched, but I found the story as a whole incredibly boring.
LibraryThing member mbmackay
A fictional account of the life of the writer of Tale of Genji. Good stuff.
Read Nov 2004
LibraryThing member isabelx
An interesting novel, telling the life-story of 11th century Japanese writer and courtier Murasaki Shikibu.
LibraryThing member HenrietteG
Loved reading this book. It gives an intriguing look at life in ancient Japan. Far from the Japan as we know it. The story grabs you and is very believable. A very strong book!
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