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The Doctor's Wife [Paperback]

By Sawako Ariyoshi, Wakako Hironaka (Translator) & Ann Siller Kostant (Translator)
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Item description for The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi, Wakako Hironaka & Ann Siller Kostant...

The role of the Japanese woman in modern society still retains many of the characteristics that it had in the late eighteenth century, when this novel takes place. In those days, the life of a woman, whether married or single, was one of unending drudgery and toil. Reward or recognition came only indirectly, through the success of the male members of the family.
Thus, this novel is really two stories: on the one hand, the successful medical career of Hanaoka Seishu, the first doctor in the world to perform surgery for breast cancer under a general anesthetic; on the other hand, the lives of his wife and his mother, who supported him with stoic resignation, even to the extent of finally volunteering to be used as guinea pigs in his experiments.
Kae, the wife, joins the household of the local doctor as the bride of his son, Hanaoka Seishu, who is still away pursuing his medical studies in Kyoto. Her mother-in-law, Otsugi, is both beautiful and extremely proud of the tradition of the doctor's family. Though their relationship is one of affection at first, it declines into tension and eventually into bitter competitiveness and hatred, fostered by the claustrophobic social customs of the time. The two women-the wife who struggles to adapt to a new household and gain the affection of her unfamiliar husband, and the over possessive mother-in-law dedicated to the fulfillment of her son's ambitions-vie with one another to serve one man. Kae suffers the most, for the new anesthetic that the doctor tries on her has devastating results.
Readers of The Doctor's Wife will find a tender and compassionate tale about a woman of great strength and courage, as well as an impelling account of Japanese society and the role of women in it.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   174
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.25"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 6, 2004
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770029748  
ISBN13  9784770029744  

Availability  0 units.

More About Sawako Ariyoshi, Wakako Hironaka & Ann Siller Kostant

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Sawako Ariyoshi was born in 1931 in Wakayama City. As a student she developed a deep interest in the theater, both modern drama and traditional Kabuki, and her own plays are widely performed in Japan. Many of her novels have also been adapted for the stage, the cinema, and television.
Ariyoshi first rose to prominence in the 1950s as a writer of short stories, but has since built an impressive reputation as a novelist dealing with crucial social issues. Among her themes have been the problems faced by women in the traditional Japanese household (Hanaoka seishu no tsuma, 1967,
translated as "The Doctor's Wife"), racial segregation in the United States (Hishoku, 1964), and environmental pollution (Fukugo-osen, 1975). Her Kokotsu no hito (The Twilight Years) was published in 1972 and sold over a million copies in less than a year.
Translations of her books have appeared throughout the world and include a French translation of The Doctor's Wife, which was a bestseller in France in 1981; The River Ki; The Twilight Years; Her Highness Princess Kazu, awarded the prestigious Mainichi Cultural Prize in 1979; and Kabuki Dancer.
Ariyoshi died in 1984.

Sawako Ariyoshi was born in 1931 and died in 1984.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > English
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Doctor's Wife?

"Each Fought to Protect the Other, Avowing Willingly to Sacrifice Her Own Life and Concealing Daggers in Her Words"  May 24, 2008
This book was published in Japanese in 1966 and in English in 1978. It's one of the best-known novels by Sawako Ariyoshi (1931-84), one of Japan's more prominent postwar female writers.

The book covered 70 years in 15 short chapters. It began in the Tokugawa Period, in the second half of the 18th century, and centered on the lives of the mother and wife of a doctor living in western Japan. Avoiding direct confrontation, they engaged in a decades-long, sacrificial struggle for the doctor's deepest affection. The character of the doctor was based on the life of a real person, from the same region as the author, who'd pioneered the use of a general anesthetic for surgery around 1800, some four decades before general anesthetics were used in the West.

The story was told in the third person. In it, the women couldn't see beyond the social roles pre-ordained for them by their relation to the doctor, which called for supporting his work and continuing the family line. The historical description was kept light, and the story advanced mostly through description of the wife's outlook and through dialogue that conveyed the outlook of both, with their sensitivity to every slight each inflicted on the other.

For me, the experience of reading most of the novel felt very similar to watching a skillfully plotted melodrama, with its timely disasters and deathbed confessions, and its emphasis on suffering and endurance. More depth than normal was provided by the novel's portrayal of the gap between how the two women appeared to those outside the family and the bitter reality inside. And near the end, by a third character who revealed thoughts about the characters and the relation of men and women in general, expressing perhaps the author's strongest views. And by a shift forward in time that submerged all the characters beneath the flow of recorded history, obscuring all the larger and smaller tragedies of their lives. This development was expressed powerfully at the novel's end.

This isn't a book to read for a scintillating style, but for its depiction of women's position in historical Japan as recreated by a modern novelist, and its marshaling of detail in service of a conclusion with some degree of power.
A Welcome Read  Feb 16, 2006
The book is set during the Tokugawa period of Japan and depicts the struggles in life of a woman named Kae. It may be thought that this book lacks a dynamic story, the idea is not because of some flaw in the author, but the fact that it is a historical fiction piece which tells of the first recorded medical operation of breast cancer under a general anesthetic. The author does a very good job at keeping up with the known facts which to some unenlightened peoples may seem as unattractive.

Aside from this notion, the book is by no means dull. It contains the tragic vie for attention between mother and daugter-in-law while touching on the issue of sexual prejudice that is still present in today's society. All this while at the same time shaping the tale of a Doctor's goal to set a medical landmark.

A very good book to learn some history while being inthralled with the story.
bit too simple  Mar 4, 2003
I think her writing style is interestingly spare and understated, but that the novel overall suffers from being too obvious and pat...vaguely interesting in some ways, but not necessarily a good book.
Very informative, about family and secret feelings  Apr 29, 2002
An atypical threesome relationship: the husband, his wife and his mother. In a culture where, not dissimilarly to the British culture, it is despicable to show your inner feelings. The wife and the mother quickly become competitive, but never admit it, hence the tragic ending.
A warning to our modern society, where, partly in response to the high divorce rate, many young adults tend to stick closer to their parents: this may become the cause, rather than the solution, of divorce problems.

Although set in the Japan of one century ago, this book is still actual. Increasingly, Japanese women flee marriage because she who marries a first-born son (this is the case for most young men, given the size of modern families), is expected to go and live with his parents.

Please ignore the review above  Apr 2, 2001
The review above has been inadvertently transposed from another work and bears NO RELATIONSHIP to the book shown.

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