Some days, I’m glad someone invented ebooks. I found Patricia Correll’s Late Summer, Early Spring two years ago. Had I bought it just as a paperback back then, it would be in ragged shreds by now. Instead, the paperback sits on my shelf, taken down and read every so often, while the ebook sees the brunt of my need to commune with Hiroshi, Lord General Iwata, and Lady Mari in a time when Japan was home to spirits.
Patricia Correll’s book has become my go-to read when I’m in need of comfort, inspiration and something soft and sensual. Like Ursula K. Le’Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and Johannes Tralow’s The Eunuch, this story feeds something inside me I often don’t know I’m hungry for.
I really can’t explain it any better than that. But give me a crappy day when the world is against me, or some news that makes me close my eyes in fear… and those are the books I head for. I have other comfort reads for other days, and other needs – I have books I read over and over because I love the characters, the setting or the story – but these three are the heavy hitters on my bookshelf. Reserved for days when only a book will do. (And any other day that ends in a y.)
Tralow has been with me since my teens. I first read LeGuin when I was twenty-two. Finding Patricia Correll’s story was a gift I hadn’t looked for, and one that took me completely by surprise with its quiet, understated beauty. It takes me to Japan, a place that holds marvellous memories for me. It offers characters that are one thing when you look at them, and something else when you close your eyes and listen to their words. And it has a love story that seems easy and inevitable on the surface, and that grows into something awesome through heartbreak and hardship.
There’s an exchange in the second part of the book, a couple of lines only, that never fails to put a lump into my throat. Iwata is a stoic man of few words, matter-of-fact, and not given to grand gestures or emotional outbursts, but with one single comment he reveals both the depth of his love and the strength of his character. Because sometimes, when you love someone, you have to let them go and cling to the conviction that you will find each other again when the time is right.
Love is rarely reasonable. Falling in love with a book is a process equally fickle. We all bring our own baggage, history and expectations to every story we read – and once in a while the stars aline and the perfect book arrives at just the right time. For me, this happened when I picked up Late Summer, Early Spring, and I’ll cherish this story as I cherish The Enuch and The Left Hand of Darkness, not least because I can find something new to delight in every time I read it.
Given that, I’m very grateful to whoever invented ebooks. (And to Dreamspinner Press for shipping my second paperback ever so promptly after Amazon told me delivery would take two months!)
Late Summer, Early Spring
Hour of the Lotus
General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. Iwata’s current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general’s unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When they discover the true cause of the illness, they will have to battle an ancient spirit and survive.
Lord General Iwata Sho sets out in search of the mysterious Fox Hunter. When he finds his former lover, Hiroshi, he discovers a changed man, scarred inside and out and consumed by vengeance. Together with Narita’s grown son Daigo, Iwata and Hiroshi pursue the malicious spirit as it leaves bloodshed in its wake. Iwata worries about what will become of Hiroshi when the fox is defeated—if Hiroshi’s revenge doesn’t kill him first.
A week after I wrote this review I was hosting Patricia Correll on the blog! (yes, thank you, the fangirl is alive and well 🙂 ) And she offered me the most marvellous thing…. an Iwata & Hiroshi short story!
In Late Summer, Early Spring there’s a scene of a poor recruit stumbling into Iwata’s tent only to find Iwata and Hiroshi together. It always makes me smile, just as I’ve always loved Hiroshi’s simple acceptance of the fact that Iwata was the man for him. I often wondered how he went about getting what he wanted and in this short story, you can find out how it all happened.
So, go read Late Summer, Early Spring and then click here to find out how Hiroshi gets surprised by Iwata. (And yes, I’m a little in love with the Lord General.)