Novels set in foreign locales offer windows into other worlds; not the peek of a week-long vacation but something akin to a lived-in comfort. And setting a novel in Japan is, by nature, a world of contrast for western audiences.
Japan kept itself isolated from the western world until American gunboat diplomacy forced it open in the 1850s. It is in this time, before our "black ships" arrived and when Japan was struggling to maintain its cultural legacy, that Ei, the daughter of real-life master printmaker Hokusai and protagonist of Katherine Govier's The Printmaker's Daughter, is born.
Ei, or Oei as her father calls her, is raised in an era when "man is superior, woman inferior. That [is] doctrine." Her family is poor and lives in an impoverished area of Edo (modern Tokyo) where "townspeople [lead] an unmarked existence," and "[feed] on brown rice and whispers of love suicide." ...
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