Uncategorized

[Magical Realism] A Unique And Quite Different Tale Set In Asia, Based In Folklore Spinning Silk by T. Cook

Truth: I kind of loved this book.

Also truth: I don’t really know how to review it.

Why? It’s a pretty unique story, and I’m not sure I’ve got the ending quite figured out, and I’m not qualified to say whether the Asian detail was well done or not, but… Let’s put it simply: reading Spinning Silk was a good experience. If you’ve found in the past that your tastes align with mine? You’ll probably enjoy it. Now let me see if I can tell you more about why I liked it.

Furi has been abandoned at birth, and raised by a family that does not cherish the idea of having another mouth to feed, especially a female one. Furi is very talented, however – she’s a masterly silk weaver, although she is forbidden from wearing the silks herself. Before she is sold out to a rich household as a servant (well, mostly a slave), her step-brother tells her that she came swaddled in silks, and so makes her wonder about her own descent.

Furi’s life is hard – nobody loves an enslaved servant. But they must recognize her talent. And soon, out of the blue, there’s this odd gardener that seems to want to protect Furi from her fate for no apparent reason… She is lost and confused, wondering about her descent and some weird things going on, always around her, she starts pondering whether she can cause some scary, maybe magical things to happen. Following tragic events, Furi happens to find herself freed from her old masters. She then starts pursuing a life as a weaver and it takes her in an unexpected direction…

The Setting Was Different And Quite Natural

I know what you’re expecting. Set in ancient Japan, the main character being a poor slave… You’re probably thinking the setting is pretty cliched. But it’s not! That’s what I was pleasantly surprised about. Actually, perhaps the book might be accused of not being Japanese enough (?), I don’t know – although there are certainly details and little things that make it Japanese, like mentioning names and traditions. However, I liked it this way, because making the setting less exotic than is the case in most books set in Asia written by Western authors, T. Cook made the book not be cliched at all. The world Furi lives in just feels like a normal place – nothing is breathtaking, exotic, otherworldly and whatnot. It’s all natural – just as it would be, if an actual Japanese person was telling their story.

A GIF of a Japanese garden water basin, gently rippling and peaceful

Obviously, I’m not Japanese myself, and although I can speak Japanese and have actually been able to get a closer look at their culture through many friends and acquaintances and the long time I spent surrounded by Japanese books etc., I can still not say if this was a well-written Japanese setting or not – that’s for actual Japanese people to say. However, I liked the lack of exoticness that just gets old in Western books about Asia.

The Mystery About The Main Character

The whole story of Spinning Silk is really built around the secret of the main character’s birth and her finding her own self. As it progresses, you start forming your own theories, and I don’t know – you might form yours faster than I did, but I think T. Cook will have you mostly guessing till the end. The history is versed in magical realism and folklore, as well as in politics. What I liked about this part is that Furi was constantly wondering about it, why things are the way they are, and who or even what she truly is. Along the way, she had some pretty scary theories about herself and thought herself to be a danger to others, which is always an interesting story arc to read emotionally.

Folklore Turns Into Light Magical Realism

For some reason (probably the blurb) I expected this book to be more paranormal than it was. But after finishing it, I can mostly just put it in the magical realism category. Yes, it’s definitely versed in Japanese folklore detail, and that was great, but I felt like maybe it needed more info on it. I have actually read a lot of stories written by Japanese authors, seen films based on their own folklore, so a lot of this was not new to me – I’m a big fan of stories versed in Asian folklore. But I feel like maybe it would have been to a person who’s never read it. However, I liked how it was handled, and subtly put in the story.

I am not completely sure if I understand what happened in the end, so I might have to reread it sometime though.

A GIF of a cute dog, turning his head this way and that to understand the situation and looking puzzled

It Reads Incredibly Pleasantly And Is Strong On Emotions

I had no trouble at all getting engrossed in this book. It follows a first person narrative, sort of a journal or diary of memories. It was easy to read and easy to relate to. This format especially allowed for the reader to empathise with the main character’s feelings. The writing was also pleasant. I liked the amount of descriptive detail.

The other thing is that the book focuses strongly on emotions and the things Furi goes through. I have always been able to resonate with a book like that very well. Having you ride the emotional roller-coaster along with the main character puts all the background of the story and the setting on the back seat, and even if they have drawbacks, you will likely not pay them much attention, cause you’re biting your fingernails for the woes of the main character.

A GIF of Jake from Adventure Time nervously eating popcorn

A Slightly Different Slave Experience, For Once

When I read books featuring female slaves, I am always worried (in advance!) of the slave being raped. Cause that’s THE OBVIOUS THING writers turn to, when writing a slave’s life. I do realize that for a woman, that is a very obvious threat and as a slave, many could not evade this tragedy. But… I just don’t want to constantly be reading about it, okay? We KNOW it’s a thing. We don’t need to make it the only narrative.

And this is what I liked about Spinning Silk – T. Cook writes a different female slave situation. Yes, she gets beaten. Yes, she gets abused, and a lot. But she doesn’t get raped. Both because the men in the household are old. Both because they’re slightly afraid of her, because of the odd events that she seems to always bring about her. I found this incredibly refreshing. I want more stories like this.

But Beware Of The Triggers

Of course, there are triggers though. There is a lot of beating and abuse, as Furi is a slave. There is also despair and self-loathing on Furi’s part, as she thinks she has done some bad things and is not sure about herself. There are murders, intentional or not. There is also attempted rape.

Overall...

Like I said, I really enjoyed reading this book. For fans of emotional stories with a little bit of magical realism versed in Asian folklore, I’m sure this would be an amazing read! Another thing I can truly say about this, is that I’m surprised this book has been self-published – in my opinion, it deserves wider attention and it should be on the shelves of many bookstores. It definitely has the potential to be successful as a mainstream book.

I thank the author T. Cook for giving me a free copy of the book in exchange to my honest opinion. Receiving the book for free does not affect my opinion. You can buy the book here at Book Depository and buying using this link supports the blog.

Have you read a lot of books based in Asia? Have some of them been refreshingly not cliched? And would you read Spinning Silk?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

Don't forget to subscribe to comment replies! <3 (it's the little bell symbol)

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Norrie
Guest

Totally not related to the book, but i’m dying to know. Did it take long to learn Japanese? It seems super difficult.

Fanna
Guest

Will definitely add this one to my TBR! I love reading about the Asian culture and this book seems like a different but good take on the Japanese world. I’m definitely impressed that the exoticism of the world isn’t overdone and it’s more of a natural setup. A slave story with not the usual tropes? Count me in! I think I would love this especially with the emotions you’re talking about though I’m worried about the ending: what if I don’t like it or didn’t understand it either? I would be devastated by something like that XD Great review, Evelina!

Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts
Guest

I’m not Japanese, but I can agree with the whole ”OMG SO EXOTIC” that gets associated with eastern cultures. I’m glad this one felt natural though! But I definitely am not the right person to make that statement even if I am Asian.

I’m also glad the slavery experience is different – so many stories focus on rape but not all female slaves got raped?

Brian Joseph
Guest

This sounds very good. I need to learn more about Japanese culture. I also usually like magical realism. I am getting a bit squeamish as I get older so some of the brutality might be difficult for me to read.

Danielle
Guest

I did not know you speak Japanese! I still have so much to learn about you. This review has me sold by the way. I am hopping over to add it on Goodreads. I love the idea of the folklore & mr elements <3

Lashaan Balasingam
Guest

Really nice review, Evelina. Interesting how the lack of exoticness was actually a good thing for you in this one. Also like how the author tackled female slavery here. It sure does sound like he didn’t want to do the most obvious things there.

Dhawal Joshi
Guest

I liked the way you narrated the views on book. At times we do get some stories that we might think would be cliche but they turn out to be something else. Its always good and refreshing to find something unique and out of the box.

Manon
Guest

This sounds like a good story that I would enjoy reading. Great review!

Kaleena @ Reader Voracious
Guest

Awesome review, this sounds like a really interesting book!

James
Guest

I’ve always said that one of my top 5 places to visit is Japan. I think it’s because the country seems so different, at least from Western eyes. There’s also that unique time of the year when the cherry trees bloom that I’ve always wanted to see. So if this book does offer a window into that culture, I’ll grasp it with both hands.

Laura Thomas
Guest

Fabulous review, Evelina. This might not be a book for me but your review engaged me!

JJ @ This Dark Material
Guest

You speak Japanese?? That is so cool and very impressive 🙂 I’m really intrigued by this, especially since it tends toward magical realism and doesn’t go for an over-the-top exotic feel in its setting. Great review Evelina!

Resh Susan
Guest

Glad you loved Spinning Silver. I enjoy books on magical realism and I like that there are subtle elements of it. And how nice that you can speak Japanese. It might have made the reading experience better in case there were Japanese words used in the book.

Resh Susan
Guest

Also I didn’t realise you had a WordPress blog until seeing your tweets the other day. I used to manually type the address and visit the blog. Makes it so much easier on WP Reader

trackback

[…] @avalinahsbooks […]

Dani @ Perspective of a Writer
Guest

Great review Evelina! It sounds super cool… though maybe not enough of anything for me?! Not sure. I love the idea of a silk spinner and magical realism. ♥️

Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages
Guest

I have been seeing this book around this days and almost everyone has given positive reviews. I hope to pick it up soon. 🙂
I do like that there is no rape mentioned. Every slavery story indeed ends up there. Also, I don’t think that I have ever read any book about Japanese culture, so it would be a good change.

Andreea
Guest

I have not read this post because I am reading the book but I will return to it once I finish it! Just excited that you liked (okay, I read the first sentences!)

trackback

[…] I LOVED last week: Spinning Silk, an Asian folklore inspired book that was really really cool (check it out!!) and of course, Cait’s A Thousand Perfect Notes, which I adored with all my heart, and you […]

Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity
Guest

I did not know you could speak Japanese, that’s a cool secret skill to have. This book sounded interesting when you first mentioned on your blog and I am now really interested after reading your review. It sounds awesome.