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...
Beyond the Book
Katherine Govier's The Printmaker's Daughter
is historical fiction based on the real-life Japanese printmaker, Hokusai - best known for his ukiyo-e
entitled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji
- and his daughter, Ei.
The character Ei spends much of her early life in the Yoshiwara, or red light district, of Edo (modern day Tokyo) where her father helps pay his bills by producing erotica known as shunga
. Ei, or Oei as he calls her, works as her father's apprentice.
In real life, just as in the book, the Yoshiwara was set off...