Excerpt from The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbol, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Sadness of the Samurai

A Novel

by Victor del Arbol

The Sadness of the Samurai
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2012, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Mérida, December 10, 1941

It was cold, and a blanket of hard snow covered the train tracks. Dirty snow, stained with soot. Brandishing his wooden sword in the air, a child contemplated the knot of rails, hypnotized.

The track split into two. One of the branch lines led west, and the other went east. A locomotive was stopped in the middle of the switch junction. It seemed disoriented, unable to choose between the two paths set out before it. The engineer stuck his head out of the narrow window. His gaze met the boy's, as if he were asking him which direction to take. Or that was how it seemed to the small child, who lifted his sword and pointed to the west. For no real reason. Just because it was one of the possible options. Because it was there.

When the station chief lifted the green flag, the engineer threw the cigarette he was smoking out the window and disappeared into the locomotive. A shrill whistle scared off the crows resting on the posts of the power cable overhead. The locomotive started up, spitting lumps of dirty snow from the rails. It slowly took the western route.

The boy smiled, convinced that his hand had decided its course. At ten years old, he knew, without yet having the words to explain it, that he could achieve anything he set out to do.

"Come on, Andrés. Let's go."

It was his mother's voice. A soft voice, filled with nuances you could only hear if you were paying attention. Her name was Isabel.

"Mamá, when can I get a real sword?"

"You don't need any sword."

"A samurai needs a real katana, not a wooden stick," protested the boy, offended.

"What a samurai needs is to keep warm so he doesn't catch the flu," replied his mother, adjusting his scarf around his neck.

Up on impossible heels, Isabel made her way through the bodies and gazes of the passengers on the platform. She moved with the naturalness of a tightrope walker up on the wire. She dodged a small puddle in which two cigarette butts floated, and veered to avoid a dying pigeon that spun around blindly.

A young man with a seminarian's haircut, who was sitting on a bench in the shelter, made room beside him for mother and son. Isabel sat, crossing her legs naturally, keeping her leather gloves on, marking each gesture with the subtle haughtiness assumed by someone who feels observed and who's accustomed to being admired.

Even the most common gesture acquired the dimensions of a perfect, discreet dance in that woman with long, lovely legs peeking out from beneath her skirt at the knee. Tilting her hips to the right, she raised her foot just enough to clean off a drop of mud that was marring the tip of her shoe.

Beside his mother, squeezing tightly up against her body to underscore that she was his, Andrés looked defiantly at the rest of the passengers waiting for the train, ready to impale with his sword the first to come near.

"Be very careful with that; you or somebody else is going to get hurt," said Isabel. She thought it was crazy that Guillermo encouraged their son's strange fantasy life. Andrés wasn't like other boys his age; for him there was no distinction between his imagination and the real world, but her husband enjoyed buying him all kinds of dangerous toys. He had even promised to give him a real sword! Before leaving the house she had tried to take away his soldier trading cards, but Andrés had started screaming hysterically. She was frightened that he'd wake everyone up and reveal her hasty escape, so she'd allowed him to bring them along. Anyway, she wasn't taking her eyes off him. As soon as she had a chance she'd get rid of them, just as she planned to do with everything that had anything to do with her husband and her life until then.

Copyright © 2011 by Víctor del Árbol. Translation Copyright © 2012 by Mara Faye Lethem

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.