In the brave new Japan of the 1870s, Taka and Nobu meet as children and fall in love; but their relationship will test the limits of society.
Unified after a bitter civil war, Japan is rapidly turning into a modern country with rickshaws, railways and schools for girls. Commoners can marry their children into any class, and the old hatred between north and south is over - or so it seems.
Taka is from the powerful southern Satsuma clan which now dominates the country, and her father, General Kitaoka, is a leader of the new government. Nobu, however, is from the northern Aizu clan, massacred by the Satsuma in the civil war. Defeated and reduced to poverty, his family has sworn revenge on the Satsuma.
Taka and Nobu's love is unacceptable to both their families and must be kept secret, but what they cannot foresee is how quickly the tables will turn. Many southern samurai become disillusioned with the new regime, which has deprived them of their swords, status and honour. Taka's father abruptly leaves Tokyo and returns to the southern island of Kyushu, where trouble is brewing.
When he and his clansmen rise in rebellion, the government sends its newly-created army to put them down. Nobu and his brothers have joined this army, and his brothers now see their chance of revenge on the Satsuma. But Nobu will have to fight and maybe kill Taka's father and brother, while Taka now has to make a terrible choice - between her family and the man she loves ...
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... a really good novel, suffused with the atmosphere of Japan in the late 19th century - when westernising influences were beginning to penetrate its traditional culture - and populated with believable characters, whose fates are not settled until the last few suspenseful pages. ... Lesley Downer has finally hit the bull’s eye as a novelist. - Spectator
Tensions between modernity and tradition, love and death, duty and desire are powerfully drawn against the backdrop of an era hurtling towards it’s inevitable end. - TLS
A magnificent, sweeping tale of love and war in nineteenth century Japan. No-one writes about Japan with more mastery of historical and cultural detail than Lesley Downer. I was enthralled by this wonderful novel -
This tale of a forbidden love, set during the era of the Last Samurai, completely captivated me. I was swept along by Taka and Nobu's struggle to be together in the face of family opposition, social difference and, ultimately, war. The world of the book - 1870s Japan - is vividly evoked. But most of all this is a compelling and intensely romantic story, beautifully told -
Against the backdrop of civil war, Lesley Downer has created a rich epic of love, confusion and loyalty. Her deep knowledge, powers of description and meticulous attention to detail draws us into the hopes and fears of 19th Century Japan in such way that you will taste the food, watch the fashions, smell the streets and live through the personal tumult of a society on the edge of change. With Across a Bridge of Dreams, Ms Downer shows she is a writer at the very top of her game -
Like the era she describes, Downer has united two contradictory themes: love and war. Fans of period romance should be sure to pack Across A Bridge Of Dreams this summer, but those who prize blood over love in historical fiction will also find much to enjoy - Independent
An epic tale of love and war, full of colour - Choice
Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring and it was there that she lived for over fifteen years. She has written many books about the country and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, and Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, and has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4 and the BBC. She now lives in London, but still makes sure she returns to Japan at least once a year.