Vocabulary and Cultural Context
The following links provide further explanation or illustration for some of the cultural or other references that I thought might enhance your reading of the book. (Click on the links for more information. Page numbers refer to the Vintage International paperback, ISBN: 0679761640)
In their devotion to the Yamamura school and their desire to show the Osaka dance to the world, some of the more enthusiastic among them had formed a club called the Daughters of Osaka, which presented a dance recital once a month at the home of Mrs. Kamisugi, widow of an Osaka lawyer. Taeko occasionally danced in the recitals - such was her devotion to the art. (p. 160)
Her face, when one thought about it, was rather long and bold for her frail body, and suggested theater breeding. One could not help thinking how it would have become her, had she been born long ago, to shave her eyebrows and blacken her teeth, and wear long, trailing skirts in the old manner. (p. 162)
Because the gathering was to be such a small one, and because the times did not permit extravagence, Taeko decided not to have a new kimono made. Discussing the problem with Sachiko, she remembered that the wedding kimonos were still at the main Osaka house. Sachiko's father, in his most prosperous period, had commissioned three famous artists to paint the designs, representations of the "three scenic spots of Japan": the shrine at Itsukushima on a black ground, the pine-covered islands of Matsushima Bay on a red ground, and the strand at Amanohashidate on a white ground. (p. 163)
They could hear samisen and kokyū being tuned below. (p. 168)
The book uses the spelling samisen, but it is often written as shamisen.
The heat was intense and the quiet gave the light and dark greens of the foliage a special limpidity. The green of the lawn seemed to rise up and flow through her. When she had left in the spring, the lilac had been in bloom and the yellow yamabuki in bud; and now the Hirado lilies and the azaleas had fallen, and only a gardenia or two was left to perfume the air. (p. 201)
Yamabuki is often translated as a type of yellow rose.
Sachiko had thought that the great actor Kikugorô would be playing in September, and that Etsuko could go to the Kabuki. (p. 227)
"Have you had any more proposals for Yukiko?" Tsuruko spoke in a very low voice.
"Not since the one you know of. But I am hoping for something soon."
"This year? Next year is bad, you know." (p. 241)
I don't remember if Yukiko's age was specifically mentioned in the book but perhaps this particular 'bad year' is because of yakudoshi, a bad luck year for women aged 33. Otherwise there are other 'bad luck years' relating to the Chinese animal horoscope.
Perhaps because it reflected the tastes of one who preferred spring, the garden had little in it to attract the eye: a rather forlorn hibiscus in the shade of the hillock, and a clump of hagi trailing its white flowers off toward the Stolz fence. (p. 243)
Hagi, or bush clover.
Photo credit: jhassy
Teinosuke thought that he and his family should go to the funeral. (p. 324)
Japanese funeral rituals
The questions below are simply a guide to get the discussion going. Feel free to pick and choose, and answer those ones that interest you. Plus if you have any other questions or thoughts on the book, please don't hesitate to bring them up. For anyone who hasn't yet read the book, please be warned that the questions and comments may contain spoilers, so please proceed at your own risk!
What did you think of Book Two?
Was there anything that happened in this section that surprised you?
Do you have a favourite scene or passage to share from Book Two?
What do you think of the relationships between the different sisters?
Which of the sisters do you most resemble?
How do you feel about the social restrictions due to class or family heirarchy?
Are you looking forward to reading Book Three? Where do you think the story will go from here? Do you think they'll ever find a suitable husband for Yukiko? What do you think Taeko will do now?
[Your question here]
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book, whether you're reading along with us or have read the book previously. If you have completed the book though, please be considerate to those who haven't regarding spoilers for Book Three.
Also, just a reminder that we'll be looking at Book Three of The Makioka Sisters on September 20th. It reads quite quickly so you could still easily pick it up and join us then to discuss the book in its entirety. Please refer to the Japanese Literature Read-along page for additional information, and please feel free to email me if you have any questions.
The Makioka Sisters has been reviewed by:
The Reading Life
Tony's Reading List
In Spring it is the Dawn (I first read it in 2007, this is my earlier review.)
If you've also reviewed this book, let me know and I'll link to it here.
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