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I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, but the idea you get from Japanese brushwork on scrolls was reminiscent of the Zen feel in the word choice here.

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I'm not a quick reader - but I read this in two or three sittings Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I'm not a quick reader - but I read this in two or three sittings. Nice too to see Glasgow depicted in this sensitive way! This is an elegant and thought-provoking novel that skilfully challenges the assumptions of the reader.

Here is my full review on Vulpes Libris: The stunning title and cover give this novel a lot to live up to it, but it does it beautifully. East meets west in a modern classic. This book checks all the right marks: On the down side, you'll want to get to know the secondary characters more than the protagonist, who is your typical writer-in-training literary character, and just not that interesting other than in his regrets.

Forget the whining of an old man, however. This tale is we This book checks all the right marks: This tale is well worth reading. An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful offers an absurdly well paced and layered story that will catch you off guard with its intrigue and bittersweet ending.

J David Simons: An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful (Saraband)

Sep 14, Nick rated it really liked it. This book follows a British author through post war Japan, to London, his family home in Glasgow and also to New York. It deals with war and guilt in a sensitive way especially when looking at the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan in Cultural differences are discussed the guilty diplomatic Brit and gung ho Americans in disagreement about the ending of the war and whether these bombs were of benefit to the war effort. Relationships were looked at as well and the main character looked ba This book follows a British author through post war Japan, to London, his family home in Glasgow and also to New York.

Relationships were looked at as well and the main character looked back with a lot of regret at past relationships and the mistakes made in life. A great read, extremely satisfying, with substance as well as style, and definitely my best book of this year so far. At the beginning I was savouring the writing style, cultural references and historical events, but as the plot picked up pace, I couldn't linger over it — I just had to know what was going to happen. Exciting, moving, full of twists, by turns sad and more upbeat, I will be reading this again almost straight away, because the personal story made me turn the pages too fast!

Great b A great read, extremely satisfying, with substance as well as style, and definitely my best book of this year so far. Simons is a wonderful writer and a joy to read. I will be sure to put more of his novels on my to-read list. I would have given 4 and a half stars if I could,only one quibble I think it ended to soon..

May 18, Nat rated it it was amazing. A beautiful dream of a book! Full of wistful longing. Is almost certainly going to feature as one of the best books i have read this year. Mar 04, Susan Gorrie rated it liked it. Mildly interesting story of an author who wrote a book in Japan condemning Americans post bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Had a love affair with a Japanese woman and left her behind. Had an unsuccessful marriage. Underdeveloped and unlikeable characters all. Edward is a Scottish author fascinated by Japan. He takes a course in Japanese studies at SOAS, gets a job in Japan in the s and then writes a successful novel set there. This novel, by a Scottish author, is also partly set in Japan in the s, partly in London and partly in Japan in , but I did not find it successful.

I did not find the parts set in post-war and later London evoked the place or time very well is Winston Churchill the only Englishman the author has heard of from the tw Edward is a Scottish author fascinated by Japan. I did not find the parts set in post-war and later London evoked the place or time very well is Winston Churchill the only Englishman the author has heard of from the twentieth century?

Modern Japan, post-war Japan and pre-war Japan are all very different and I think the author may have shown up those differences quite well although he should perhaps have known that there was a translation of Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata into English in US attitudes to Japan and the destruction of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also addressed quite well. My main problem with the book was that I could not understand the characters, why they acted as they did or believe in the relationships between them.

Edward's love affair with Japan worked, but that with a Japanese woman did not. I also felt the sections would have been better gathered together at the end than scattered through the book.


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Jan 10, Diana Jackson rated it it was amazing. I borrowed this book from Kinghorn Library and found it beautiful, shocking, informative, gripping in places and haunting. Edward was fascinated by Japan and a legacy enabled him to realise his dream to live and work there. His view of the culture and his surroundings, as well as delving into the morality of the war, took you into an exotic but scarred and unfamiliar world.

J David Simons: An Exquisite Sense Of What Is Beautiful (Saraband)

An escape which included a love affa I borrowed this book from Kinghorn Library and found it beautiful, shocking, informative, gripping in places and haunting. Hidden truths festered, only resurfacing when Edward was an old man before his time and he revisited Japan, meeting his first love Sumiko once more.

A clever plot with an unexpected ending, which I will not spoil for you, but which left me haunted for some time. May 29, Andrew rated it it was amazing Shelves: I liked this book very much. It was slow to develop and in the early stages a little confusing. However, once I got used to the alternating chapters, this proved to be a real strength in helping the historical significance of the novel to unravel.

A Sense of What Beauty Is

Although the cultural and historical aspects of the book are important, the real differences in the social attitudes of Edward, Macy and Sumiko, are where the real story develops. The I liked this book very much. The flash back chapters were what helped to keep the historical setting alive. Without risking any spoilers, the quotes from selected chapters in the novel, the Waterwheel, help to tie up some of the loose ends. Feb 27, Tanya Langenbach rated it it was amazing. I really enjoyed this book.

I loved the prose this book is beautifully written. I liked how it flicks from the Uk to japan and covers different time periods - 's and present day. Edward, the main character, is first introduced to us as an older successful man visiting Japan and then we meet him in the 's when he was in his early 20's and get the back story. I read this book quite quickly and thought about it in-between reads - always a good sign. I also enjoyed how the story covered hist I really enjoyed this book.

I also enjoyed how the story covered historical events and people but never lost sight of the personal experiences and stories of the characters. May 25, Phyllis rated it it was amazing. The descriptions of past and modern Japan were beautiful and I liked the way we were made aware of Edward's failing health and frustrations as an old man in a sensitive way.

As the chapters moved cleverly between past and present we learned more of his story, little by little and with a few surprises along the way.

An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful by J. David Simons

I also liked the way the author dealt with both American and Japanese denial of the war alongside Edward's own story and denial. The sense of place and time and the characters were al The descriptions of past and modern Japan were beautiful and I liked the way we were made aware of Edward's failing health and frustrations as an old man in a sensitive way. The sense of place and time and the characters were all strong.

Oct 29, Anne Gibney rated it liked it. A good read, but for me it just didn't hold together, and I think the author was a bit too ambitious. The implied parallel between the American bombing of Nagasaki and the protagonists Unacknowledged domestic violence towards his American wife was a bit clumsy.

There were beautiful moments in this book, and the glimpses into Japanese culture were breathtaking. I think the author set himself a challenge which he didn't quite manage to pull off. Aug 24, Cathy rated it liked it. An old man returns to Japan where he lived in his youth, rekindling memories of life and love.

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Unfortunately, I found the main character to be selfish, self-indulgent and lacking any remorse for his treatment of those close to him so although it was well-written I just couldn't engage with his story. Jul 01, David Meldrum rated it really liked it Shelves: A haunting and beautiful book about the gaps in our own self-knowledge, and how the most apparently prophetic and challenging voices are hiding something in the themselves. Split across eras, the story is simply told and the moments of pain and tragedy come like thunderclaps on a clear summer's day. Not easily forgotten, and if you let it be so, it's deeply challenging.

Feb 29, Steve Mullins rated it it was amazing. This is a beautifully written story with highly engaging reflective style. I was really taken with the current and past narratives which were very expertly interwoven. Anyone who likes good writing should pick up a copy immediately and get on with it. Jan 09, Miranda rated it really liked it. A really nice book.


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  • Nothing too incredible but just got into my 4-star category for being a really good examination of some quite intriguing characters. Jan 08, Claire rated it liked it. I loved the language and story, but didn't like the central character and really didn't like the ending. Audio recording and editing by Blake Brooks. Yes, I liked it, but if you stop and analyze what happens you over and over find things that just do not make sense! If I give you examples, I am going to wreck the book for you. Contemporary authors seem to think readers today no longer want a book that runs in chronological order.

    They all have to flip back and forth in time. Here we start in and then flip back first to the 50s and then to time periods closer and closer to when Edward is in his 70s. We learn retrospectively why he has become who he is. This flipping is not difficult to follow, but tell me, what is gained by this manner of writing?! Nothing as far as I can see. Did I care for the characters? No, but they felt real. Edward is self-centered, egotistical and detached.

    Do you get much history? No, even if some well-recognizable people Churchill, Nehru flash by! That Edward saw the American destruction of Japan specifically Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima with unforgiving eyes is not ever explained. He writes a book about it, but why he felt so moved is left unexplored.

    More could have been done with this theme. What the book does excellently is beautifully draw for the reader the ambiance of a place - NY, London and Japan around Tokyo. Mostly the latter two.


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    • The Japanese characters feel Japanese. The American characters too. All the dialogs are perfect. Over and over I thought, "Yeah, that is exactly how a Japanese would talk to a foreigner. I have also been to the places where the story is set, outside Tokyo. Everybody that goes to Japan will visit Kamakura and Hakone. On a crowded train near Hakone we were given painted toothpicks by a Japanese man. Given, they were a present from someone I did not know.