In the following, I will talk about Lian Hearn’s Across The Nightingale Floor, an Australian fantasy novel. You might wonder why Australian fantasy specifically? Why am I not saying it is a fantasy book?
There is a reason for that. In Australia, there is the Australian fantasy subgenre, which differentiates itself from the fantasy genre. The difference is not as obvious as an Australian author or the author writing their book in Australia. If this sparked your interest you want to read up on it, I suggest you check out John Ryan’s Reflections on an Australian Fantasy. Constructing the Impossible.
For this review, I will focus on Lian Hearn’s connection to Australia in this book and why it falls under the subgenre Australian fantasy. As mentioned, the story plays out in pseudo-medieval Japan. This sounds very confusing now but let me shed some light on the matter. Between Australia and Japan exists a literary tradition, which intel’s that the Japanese write about Australia and vice versa but that is not the only reason why her book falls under the subgenre of Australian fantasy. If you pay attention you can also find aspects of Australia in how Hearn describes her world. Specifically the description of nature.
Now after this short detour, let’s get into it.
Across The Nightingale Floor by Lean Hearn was first published in 2002 and is the first book of her Tales Of The Otori book series. We are introduced to a pseudo-medieval Japan called The Three Countries. Tomasu is the protagonist and belongs to a persecuted religious group called the Hidden. One day, he returns home and finds his village burning and his family killed. To escape their fate he runs away but runs into the horse of Iida Sadamu, a feared man across the three countries.
His men chase after Tomasu but luckily the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru, who later adopts him and changes his name to Takeo saves him. On their journey, Takeo learns a lot about himself and his family. Eventually, he is sucked into a scheme with his adopted father, their clan and a secret society called the Tribe. The Tribe turns out to be a huge part of his destiny.
Check the book and the author out https://www.lianhearn.com/
Across The Nightingale Floor is full of mysteries, secrets, love, betrayal, suspense and so much more. If you are as attracted to any of this as much as I am, this is the book for you. In her own way, Hearn explores Japanese culture with this book and if you want to know more about it, you should visit her website, where she talks about the experience of writing about another culture and the difficulties that come along with it.
I honestly was not able to put the book down once I started reading. The experience was such an adventure and hence I was completely drawn into the story and the characters. I felt so many different emotions ranging from happiness, sadness to anger, and probably a lot more. A complete whirlwind.
I read the book as a part of a seminar from my university, and I was doubtful. My experience with good and enjoyable books assigned by school or university was slim. However, I will totally read them again and check out the other books of the series. I personally think that Lian Hearn’s writing has a lot to do with it. I often read books of authors, with amazing plots but the writing not doing it justice. That is not the case here at all. She has a way with words, which sucks you in completely. Sometimes I didn’t even feel like I was reading anymore but watching a movie. Sounds odd but it does happen to me sometimes with very good books. So, to wrap this up, I can only recommend this book. It was amazing.