Advance reader reviews of The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz.

The Commoner

A Novel

By John Burnham Schwartz

The Commoner
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2008,
    368 pages.

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There are currently 15 member reviews
for The Commoner
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  • Janice (Bluffton SC)


    The Commoner
    If you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, this book is for you. I am not normally a reader of Asian fiction but was thoroughly enveloped by this descriptive, informative and well-written tale. One cannot help but sympathize with the protagonist as she moves through life from, a commoner to royalty, with pain and fragility and, finally, maturity.
    Given the author's extensive research and knowledge of Japan, this is a fine learning novel.
  • Christine (Gig Harbor WA)


    The Commoner
    I wish I had liked The Commoner more. John Burnham Schwartz obviously did his homework on life on both sides of the Japanese Imperial Walls. His writing creates exquisite snapshots of the culture and mores of a society in a time of recovery and change. However, it is in the details that the story gets bogged down and allowed me to set aside the novel during this busy time of year. I am glad I stuck with the novel, being rewarded with a less than traditional "happily ever after" ending to a novel that reads, at times, like a fairy tale.
  • Sabrina (Fayetteville NC)


    A Taste of Japanese Royalty
    This novel provides the reader with the unique and enjoyable experience of learning about the particular practices of Japanese royalty. The opportunity to enter this culture was the most positive feature of the book for me. However, even in this regard, the author failed to provide enough depth. More explanatory historical information would have been helpful. This could have been accomplished in a manner that would have not detracted from the plot. It probably would have enhanced the plot's enjoyment. Depth was also lacking in character development. The novel's narrator, Haruko, is a strong-willed and memorable character. However, she seems distant from the reader; it was hard for me to feel drawn to her emotionally. The same is true for the other central characters. This is likely a good choice for book clubs but not for individual readers yearning for thought-provoking insight into the emotional conflicts faced by those in Haruko's culture and in her position.
  • Liz (Morristown NJ)


    The Commoner
    I really enjoyed this book, having lived in Japan I was very interested in the culture and personalities of the characters. I found the book to be well written and engaging. This would be a great book club read as there is a lot to discuss. At the very least I would recommend this book to others, Japanophiles or not.
  • Valerie (Chico CA)


    The Commoner
    I found this book engaging and well written. I also found it aroused emotions of frustration and anger at the helplessness of the female characters and their inability to affect their situations. If you read for entertainment, this may not be the best choice. If you would like insights into the Japanese royals' way of life, which probably carries over to the royal lives of other nations, this book is a worthwhile read.
  • Angela (Hartland MI)


    Raw and Emotionally Charged
    I am a big fan of Asian historical fiction, so I was very excited to read this book. I was not disappointed. I found this book to be raw and emotionally charged, with strong female characters who may or may not have sacrificed too much for the good of their country. I actually cried when Haruko loses her voice and I could feel her pain and depression screaming from the pages. As with most books I like, I wished it would never end. I could go on, but suffice to say, this book was an interesting read from start to finish.
  • Mary Goulding (River Forest IL)


    Unfulfilled promise
    If you're in the mood to read another "Princess Diaries," but without the happy ending, you might even like it. I have a weakness for peeks behind royal curtains, so kept reading, certain there would be interesting things to come. For some unknown reason, even to me, I forged through the first 150 pages of labored writing about an uninteresting young Japanese girl who was to become the Japanese Empress. Spirits definitely lifted when the wedding day rolled around. The writing became better, but the girl less interesting, and I never got to really know any other character, as everything is told in her own voice. Even the backstage revelations dissolved into soap opera with the requisite evil mother-in-law. Some suspense in the last chapters kept me turning the pages, and hope didn't die until I'd read the last one...when my remained hopes unfulfilled.
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