“The Tea House Fire” by Ellis Avery

I’ve found myself recommending this one to quite a few people this week. I picked it up from a clearance table while working in a remainder store, and it was worth all the $3.50 I spent on it and more.

I am, of course, a sucker for tea ceremonies and insightful descriptions of Western female experiences of Japanese culture. Sir Phoebus’ Ma and Fear and Trembling are books that I find myself returning to occasionally despite my huge unread piles and lists. It’s a pretty depressing story at times, full of unrequited love and self suppression. The Tea House Fire is a bit of a beginner’s introduction to Japanese traditional society and early interactions between “eastern” and “western” cultures through the politics of tea ceremony. Integrated well with the voice of the protagonist and the events within the story the intricacies and weight of a traditional, patriarchal, reclusive society enhance rather than bog down the narrative.

The themes of homosexual romance are handled intelligently and the conclusion is so satisfying that I carried a warm feeling around in my chest for days afterward. I won’t say too much, in case I spoil anything for anyone, but there are some very lovely aesthetic and romantic scenes that I will return to soon and gladly.

I hope that you all enjoy The Tea House Fire as much as I did. If not, then please comment and share your thoughts with me!

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