Good morning, everyone! I hope that you are having a lovely week so far, and that you are continuing to stay healthy.
We have officially reached the halfway point of this year’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, and I’m feeling really good about my progress. So far I have managed to stick to my plan of completing one reading prompt per week, and I’ve also completed what will probably turn out to be my most challenging book of the year.
This week’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update is all about The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, which I finally finished after about six weeks of reading.
The Tale of Genji is a novel about court life in medieval Japan. The majority of the book follows the character of Genji, one of the emperor’s sons, and relates tales of his exploits.
The narrative is presented as a series of interconnected stories (or episodes), which focus on specific events in the lives of Genji, his relatives, and others who are close to him. Some of the chapters take place over the course of a single season, while others cover the events of several years. The length of time between each chapter also varies.
According to The Metropolitan Museum’s website, The Tale of Genji is considered to be the “world’s first psychological novel,” but I have also heard it referred to as the “world’s first novel.” This makes The Tale of Genji a very important piece of literary history, which is why it has been on my TBR list for quite some time.
While The Tale of Genji is a very well-written book, it’s not exactly the most exciting novel I’ve ever read. In all honesty, I found The Tale of Genji to be a difficult read, mostly because of its extremely large cast of characters. Because many characters are referred to by their titles, rather than their names, it was sometimes difficult to know exactly who you were reading about. I often found myself needing to refer back to the character lists, which appear at the beginning of each chapter, or to the footnotes. This slowed down my reading considerably and kept me from fully immersing myself in the narrative.
I think that it is important to mention that The Tale of Genji does include some content which might cause emotional distress for some readers. Specifically, the novel contains several veiled references to rape and quite a few cases of dubious consent. There are a number of male characters who pursue women regardless of their feelings on the matter, and Genji himself is often emotionally manipulative in his pursuit of various women. The book also includes references to suicide, as well as spousal abuse.
Ultimately, I am glad that I took the time to finish reading The Tale of Genji, but I probably would not have done so if I hadn’t been reading it for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. I certainly won’t be re-reading it for fun in the future.
If you are interested in classic Japanese literature, then The Tale of Genji might be of interest to you. While I found it difficult to read, it is a beautifully-written novel, and an interesting look at court life in ancient Japan. However, it is also a rather long novel, and one that you need to be prepared to spend a significant amount of time reading.
Next week’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update will be posted on Saturday, July 3rd. In the meantime, I hope you will join me here on The Unapologetic Bookworm next week for this month’s Beat the Backlist update, as well as a look at my current progress on my 2021 reading goals.
Have a wonderful weekend!