I recently finished reading The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel
by Liza Dalby.

This is a piece of historical fiction, although based on some true historical events, people, and pieces of literature. There was a lot of extensive research done for this book, and you could tell. In a nutshell, Murasaki Shikibu wrote The Tale of Genji, which is considered by many to be the world's first novel. And this book is, based on Murasaki's diary and notes, an account of what her life may have been like (with some artistic license to fill in the gaps).

While not a completely accurate account of her life, which is why it's a novel in the fiction section and not a non-fiction biography, it does discuss many different facets of Japanese life during that time - 11th Century Japan. I just love books that can actually teach a little bit.

In my search to find additional information, my regular sources - Cliffs Notes and Sparknotes - didn't have much on this novel (though they did for Genji). But the author herself created a website to explain more. And I'm glad to pore over it at it has provided a lot of interesting information. For example, during that era, it was traditional for women to blacken their teeth. I was really curious about this custom and was able to find out more. I'm so glad that this is not a modern day tradition though.

Guide to The Tale of Murasaki: By Liza Dalby

As for the book, if you love novels set in historical times, dealing with Asian themes, then you will enjoy this as well. It is beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

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