- The Third book I bought at Somerset was The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts
Frances Watts, during a session I attended at Somerset Literary Festival, explained her research of Japan. I loved the layer after layer of sensory images filling my mind. I discovered her story had the added depth of the smallest details. How the people travelled, the distances from one district to the other. The dress and seasonal festivals were all entwined in this story.
Kasumi is an Inn Keepers daughter, she who loves her mountain village and its surrounding forest. She is outspoken and difficult for her father to manage. When a Samurai Master takes her to the teeming city of Edo as lady-in-waiting to his new wife, she thinks it is an escape. Learning to fit in is difficult with a distant mistress as her companion. There are secrets she must keep. They are dangerous for her mistress and herself. Her master’s nephew is a distraction with his love of art and her own artistic talents revealed.
The setting is a time of upheaval in Japan. The black ships from America arrived to force Japan to accept trade. The opposing factions of loyalty to the Shogun and the Emperor make it a dangerous place to live. Could Kasumi solve the mystery of who the spy could be? Could she find true love? Would she have to return to her village and marry the yam man her father would arrange for her?