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Reviews

  • How did it feel to live in what was even then one of the largest cities in the world, a place of vivid and brilliant creativity, isolated by decree from the world at large? This is the question that Amy Stanley has set herself in this quietly ambitious book... She has extracted a touching and accessible story about leaving the provinces for the thrilling loneliness of the big city, about making mistakes and making the same mistakes again... a minor miracle of documentary and literary archaeology

    Richard Lloyd Parry, The Times
  • At the heart of Stanley's book is the extraordinary and terrible story of Tsuneno... Using detailed documentation, Stanley builds up a picture of Tsuneno's world, immersing us in temple, village and town life in an experience akin to time travel... Tsuneno's story takes us into virtually every corner of this remarkable society on the brink of change

    Lesley Downer, Times Literary Supplement
  • Stanley's book - a stunning work of academic persistence, reconstruction and luck - weaves the hard-won details of Tsuneno's life into the final years of the Edo period, brilliantly highlighting the clues that both Japan, and the city that would become Tokyo, were on the brink of change... Few western writers have managed to capture the DNA strands from this fabulously colourful moment of Tokyo's past and weave them so adroitly

    Leo Lewis, Financial Times
  • The great achievement of this revelatory book is to demolish any assumption on the part of English language readers that pre-modern Japan was all blossom, tea ceremonies and mysterious half-smiles... Tsuneno is interesting and admirable precisely because she was of her time and had to make the best of the hand she had been dealt. It is her ordinariness, and her multiple failures at not getting what she wanted, that make her story so deeply absorbing

    Guardian
  • A visit to the past that is a refreshing antidote to the histories of great men-and the occasional great woman-at times of flux... Tsuneno's life was not a heroic one. The heroism lies rather in Ms Stanley's efforts to decipher her story... the paper trail Tsuneno left behind is remarkable

    Economist
  • Tsuneno's rebellious trajectory, preserved in her family's archive, was unusual, yet even her most commonplace steps are absorbing. Although her squabbles and triumphs (a dispute about a kimono, a new job as maid of all work to a samurai family) can only be glimpsed, Stanley's careful speculation fills the lacunae, evoking Edo's back alleys and law courts, its fashion and food

    New Yorker
  • Stanley endeavours - with a Hilary Mantel-esque attention to detail - to recreate the world through which Tsuneno moved. It's impressive

    Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph
  • What makes this book far more than an academic treatise is the rich detail of ninetieth-century Japanese city life it reveals, as well as the stubborn refusal to give up Tsuneno herself... like the best history, it illuminates a whole and largely unknown world

    Piers Plowright, Tablet
  • Stanley shows us Edo's back alleys, offering a portrait of a city just before its cultural life was flooded with western influences, and it transformed into the Tokyo of today.

    Ellie Cawthorne and Matt Elton, BBC History Magazine
  • Absorbing...A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy.

    Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, The Wall Street Journal

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