THE SCENT OF SAKE

Joyce Lebra

 She was taught to submit, to obey . . . but she dreamed of an empire.

The sole heir to the House of Omura, a venerable family of Kobe sake brewers, nineteen-year-old Rie hears but cannot heed her mother’s advice: that in nineteenth-century Japan, a woman must “kill the self” or her life will be too difficult to bear. In this strict, male-dominated society, women may not even enter the brewery—and repressive tradition demands that Rie turn over her family’s business to the inept philanderer she’s been forced to marry. She is even expected to raise her husband’s children by another woman—a geisha—so that they can eventually run the Omura enterprise.

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 She was taught to submit, to obey . . . but she dreamed of an empire.

The sole heir to the House of Omura, a venerable family of Kobe sake brewers, nineteen-year-old Rie hears but cannot heed her mother’s advice: that in nineteenth-century Japan, a woman must “kill the self” or her life will be too difficult to bear. In this strict, male-dominated society, women may not even enter the brewery—and repressive tradition demands that Rie turn over her family’s business to the inept philanderer she’s been forced to marry. She is even expected to raise her husband’s children by another woman—a geisha—so that they can eventually run the Omura enterprise.

But Rie’s pride will not allow her to relinquish what is rightfully hers. With courage, cunning, brilliance, and skill, she is ready to confront every threat that arises before her—from prejudice to treachery to shipwrecks to the insidious schemes of relentless rivals—in her bold determination to forge a magnificent dynasty…and to, impossibly, succeed.

An epic and breathtaking saga that spans generations as it sweeps through the heart of a century, Joyce Lebra’s The Scent of Sake is a vivid and powerful entry into another world…and an unforgettable portrait of a woman who would not let that world defeat her.

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  • Avon A
  • Paperback
  • February 2009
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780061662379

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$13.99

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About Joyce Lebra

 Joyce Lebra, a recognized authority on the cultures of Japan, India, and Asia/Pacific women, is professor emerita of Colorado University. She lived in Japan many years and authored twelve nonfiction books.

Praise

“The complex and unusual social norms and mores of nineteenth-century Japan are woven cleanly into the story line, without clumsy exposition. The unfamiliar setting allows Lebra to create a historically believable heroine that modern women can relate to, a difficult task for historical fiction.” —Booklist

“Lebra’s focused, businesslike style and attention to detail make a fine match for her protofeminist heroine.” — Publisher’s Weekly

Discussion Questions

Were you surprised by how powerful sake brewers were in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

Why was this house happy to have a daughter as an only child?

Was Jihei a typical mukoyoshi, adopted husband/househead?

What challenges did Rie face as a woman? What advantages did she have as house daughter?

Why was Rie so unhappy to have Yoshitaro adopted as househead and heir? Would you be?

Do you think arranged marriages worked at the time?

Why were people so surprised Rie wanted to adopt a mukoyoshi for Fumi?

Some Americans have asked, why didn’t Rie have the nerve to sneak into the kura when no one was looking? What do you think?

What would have happened had Rie been discovered during her assignation with Saburo? What would have happened to Saburo?

What was your reaction when Rie demanded that Kinno divorce Nobu?