A Woman of Pleasure: A Novel (Paperback)

A Woman of Pleasure: A Novel By Kiyoko Murata, Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translated by) Cover Image
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An unforgettable novel of fearless women banding together to pursue the lives they want, inspired by the real-life historic Japanese courtesan strike

In 1903, a fifteen-year-old girl named Aoi Ichi is sold to the most exclusive brothel in Kumamoto, Japan. Despite her modest beginnings in a southern fishing village, she becomes the protégée of an oiran, the highest-ranking courtesan at the brothel. Through the teachings of her oiran, Shinonome, Ichi begins to understand the intertwined power of sex and money. And in her mandatory school lessons, her writing instructor, Tetsuko, encourages Ichi and the others to think clearly and express themselves. By banding together, the women organize a strike and walk away from the brothel and into the possibility of new lives.

Based on real-life events in Meiji-era Japan, award-winning and critically acclaimed veteran writer Kiyoko Murata re-creates in stunning detail the brutal yet vibrant lives of women in the red-light district at the turn of the twentieth century—the bond they share, the survival skills they pass down, and the power of owning one's language.

About the Author

KIYOKO MURATA has been awarded over ten major literary awards in Japan, including the Akutagawa Prize in 1987. A Woman of Pleasure is her first book to be published in English. She lives in Fukuoka, Japan.

JULIET WINTERS CARPENTER is a distinguished translator of Japanese literature whose work has received numerous awards. She lives with her husband on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

Praise For…

Bookshop, A Most Anticipated Title of the Year

"[An] unflinching and humane portrayal of prostitutes in early-20th-century Japan . . . [I]rrefutable and beautiful." —V.V. Ganeshananthan, The New York Times Book Review

"Kiyoko Murata's A Woman of Pleasure is proof that a novel can opt for clarity without sacrificing complexity . . . [I]t is at once a detailed character study, a beautifully researched work of historical fiction, and a plain declaration of both women's rights and workers' rights . . . A Woman of Pleasure is brisk but lyrical, moving but unsentimental . . . A Woman of Pleasure has become an ode to self-determination—physical and intellectual both." —Lily Meyer, NPR

"A Woman of Pleasure is perhaps the best novel about Japan’s pleasure quarters available in the English language. Filled with a cast of fully-realized women, it is a striking work of historical fiction. Many of the questions it raises are still as pertinent today as they were 120 years ago." —Alison Fincher, Asian Review of Books

"This immersive chronicle will move readers." —Publishers Weekly

"Using the frame of incidents from Meiji-era Japan, Murata takes us into brothel life . . . The novel especially enchants with its nods to writing." —JR Ramakrishnan, Electric Literature

"Murata crafts a powerful story with universal themes, and her deep knowledge of history and culture illuminates the impossible situation women were forced to navigate . . . [T]his will be a valuable addition to historical-fiction collections." —Cate Triola, Library Journal

"The experiences of a country girl sold into prostitution in 1903 lay bare the established system and financial exploitation of the Japanese pleasure industry . . . A precise portrait of sexual enslavement." —Kirkus Reviews

"Vivid, humane, and fresh, Murata’s compelling tale of youth, sisterhood and society’s treatment of women sings in Winter-Carpenter’s translation." —Polly Barton, author of Fifty Sounds

"With crystalline economy precisely calibrated to a world where money, beauty, power, and the lifeforce of women are measured against the value of pleasure and exchanged for survival, Kiyoko Murata's novel comes alive with exacting force. Reading A Woman of Pleasure is like walking into the stratified rooms of Shinonome vibrant with a kaleidoscopic range of perspectives, each drawn with such nuance and sensitivity that they held me as captive as the changing, patriarchal world of early 1900s Japan held this community of women and girls. A marvel." ––Asako Serizawa, winner of the PEN/Open Book Award and author of Inheritors
Product Details
ISBN: 9781640095793
ISBN-10: 1640095799
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English