Grass For His Pillow: Tales of Otori, Book Two

( 37 )

Overview

Praised for its epic scope and descriptive detail, Across the Nightingale Floor, the first book in the Tales of the Otori series, was an international bestseller and critical success, named by the London Times as "the most compelling novel to have been published this year." With Grass for His Pillow, Book Two, we return to the medieval Japan of Lian Hearn's creation—a land of harsh beauty and deceptive appearances.

In a complex social hierarchy, amid dissembling clans and ...

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Overview

Praised for its epic scope and descriptive detail, Across the Nightingale Floor, the first book in the Tales of the Otori series, was an international bestseller and critical success, named by the London Times as "the most compelling novel to have been published this year." With Grass for His Pillow, Book Two, we return to the medieval Japan of Lian Hearn's creation—a land of harsh beauty and deceptive appearances.

In a complex social hierarchy, amid dissembling clans and fractured allegiances, there is no place for passionate young love. The orphan Takeo has been condemned to work as an assassin—an enforced occupation that his father sacrificed his own life to escape. Meanwhile, Takeo’s beloved Shirakawa Kaede, heir to the Murayama and alone in the world, must find a way to unify the domain she has inherited, as she fights off the advances of would-be suitors and hopes against fading hope that Takeo will return to her...

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
”A welcome sequel...deliciously readable. In this new volume, we find ourselves once again transported to a medieval Japan of the imagination: a harsh land ruled by local warlords, an essentially static social order in which family ties bind tightly, a culture that mixes great refinement with unspeakable brutality...Reads like a fine translation from the Japanese.”—The New York Times Book Review

”This is the second installment in Hearn’s trilogy and astonishingly it’s even better than volume one...the emotional power of the story is vastly magnified. Time and destiny are almost tangible in the novel...The beauty, savagery and strangeness of Hearn’s gripping tale is heightened by her exquisite, crystalline prose.”—The Independent on Sunday (UK)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594480034
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Series: Tales of the Otori Series , #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 233,723
  • Lexile: HL790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lian Hearn is the pseudonym for the writer Gillian Rubinstein, currently living in Australia, who has a lifelong interest in Japan, has lived there, and speaks Japanese. All five books in the Tales of the Otori series—Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, Brilliance of the Moon, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, and Heaven's Net is Wide—are available now from Riverhead Books.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

The extraordinary adventure continues in the second book of the internationally heralded trilogy, Tales of The Otori...

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, one of Book magazine's best novels of the year, and one of School Library Journal's Best Adult Books for High School Readers (2002), Across the Nightingale Floor was an international bestseller and critical success, named "the most compelling novel to have been published this year" by the Times (London). In this second tale, we return to the land of harsh beauty and deceptive appearances where we first met Takeo-the young orphan taken up by the Otori Lord and now a closely held member of the Tribe-and his beloved Shirakawa Kaede, heir to the Maruyama and alone in the world, who must find a way to unify the domain she has inherited. In a complex social hierarchy, amid dissembling clans and fractured allegiances, there is no place for passionate young love. Yet Takeo and Kaede, drawing on their unusual talents and hidden strengths, must make their way in this tale of longing, ambition, and intrigue. Grass for His Pillow is a tantalizing next installment in a brilliantly imaginative and critically acclaimed series.

ABOUT LIAN HEARN

Lian Hearn is a pseudonym. The author was born in England, has studied Japanese and has a lifelong interest in Japan.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • When Kaede admits to Shizuka that it was she, not Takeo, that killed Iida Shizuka is shocked and responds by saying, "Never let anyone know that! Not one of these warriors, not even Arai would let you live" (p. 7 in galley). Why would the warriors or Arai kill Kaede, especially since they were going to kill Iida anyway? What does this say about how women are viewed in this society?
     
  • At the start of the second book it seems that Kaede has evolved from the person she was in Across the Nightingale Floor. For example: she is now willing to appear to submit to those above her, she is able to look men in the eyes, and she says that she feels power in her veins. In fact, after meeting her Fujiwara tells her, "You are very bold for a girl." What can these changes be attributed to? How will they affect her throughout the rest of story? How will these changes impact other characters that Kaede comes in contact with?
     
  • In Takeo's society, the clan that one is born into is the clan that one remains loyal to for a lifetime. Therefore, Takeo should be more loyal to the Tribe or even to the Hidden than to the Otori. Who or what is Takeo most loyal to? What are his loyalties based on? How do his loyalties or disloyalties impact him? Is Takeo's choice of where he places his loyalties a positive or a negative thing for him?
     
  • Throughout the novel, Takeo tricks people into thinking that he is someone else. When he is with the Tribe and must take on the role of a juggler Yuki tells him, "My father also said that you could impersonate well." Though Takeo struggled with hiding his true self when he was younger, he excels at it now. What is it that has allowed Takeo to be such a good impersonator? How is Takeo now able to be someone he isn't?
     
  • Why does Kaede's father feel he must kill her? Is his reasoning based on the fact that she is pregnant, that she is seen as responsible for the deaths of men that desire her, or that all her life her father has desired her himself?
     
  • Compare Shigeru and how he acted as a Lord and Kaede and how she acts as a Lady. Kaede's actions as a Lady begin when she orders soldiers killed and takes their land because they will not remain loyal to her. Would Shigeru have done the same thing? Would Lady Maruyama have acted this way? Is the difference in how they treat their servants and guards based simply on personality or are there other factors that influence how each person must rule?
     
  • When entering Otori while on his mission to find the records that Shigeru kept on the Tribe, Takeo sees a sign that says "The Otori clan welcome the just and the loyal. Let the unjust and the disloyal beware." After reading this Takeo thinks, "unjust and disloyal. I was both: disloyal to Shigeru, who had entrusted his lands to me, and unjust as the Tribe are, unjust and pitiless" (galley pg. 147). Is Takeo's assessment of himself correct? Has he become unjust and disloyal since the death of Shigeru? Are any of his actions justifiable?
     
  • What makes Takeo's crossing of the Nightingale floor at Shigeru's house where he has gone to retrieve the records different than any other time he has crossed a Nightingale floor? Does he have any difficulty crossing the floor this time?
     
  • Arai also seems to change from the first book to the second. In the Book I he is depicted as a hero when he helps Kaede and later when he and his men defeat Iida's men. In Book II however, he is represented as a power hungry warrior. Has Arai changed at all? If so is there a reason for this change in him? Now that he is a ruler, are Arai's actions necessary? Could Shigeru have defeated Iida's men and be a successful ruler without acting how Arai acts?
     
  • Book II ends with the prophecy that Takeo will have five battles ahead of him, four to win and one to loose. Seemingly the one he will loose will be against his own son. What does this say about the power of the clans? Do you think Takeo will die by the hand of his son?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2009

    Great Tension Building Segue

    This series is full of tough spots for the characters. Better than that, it's full of characters that leave an impression and seem to escape being as i have come to expect. Particularly in this book, there are periods of exploration of themselves (in which even they themselves are surprised), and growth - including personality traits that are not what i expected. The characters seem to be plucked from history -- Takeo and Kaede and Arai and all the others seem very real.

    I cannot /wait/ to begin reading book number 3! this one went by faster than any book i've ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Makes you want more

    Captures the culture well. Alot is understood without being spoken.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Sequels Cant Get Better Than This!

    The tone of the book is enough to keep the readers of the edge of their seats wondering what will happen!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    Grass for his pillow

    This book was so good because of its balance between war, love and culture. it is a fantastic read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    Amazing! Sorry, can't think of anthing else...

    Great book! Very emotional, but, even though it is a great book, i still prefer 'Across the nightinggale floor' (even though it had the most annoying ending!!!) Has nothing to do with Grass or Pillow's though, it tells us about Takeo and Keade's relationship away from each other (tee-hee) and how they cope. Mainly its on Keade seeking power and all that stuff on how she should have been born a boy, and Takeo coping life with the 'Tribe.' Read this on a Plane! Really good for reading on planes, especailly when you've already seen the movie's thier showing! Two annoying things though: The names, I CAN NOT PRONOUNCE HALF THE NAMES. Well, I can't, but maybe you can, i'm only 13. Oh, and the fact that the word 'TEA' is used so often. It's amusing at first, but then is very irritating coz no one wants to read about tea. Wonderful book, i've read all of them a million times. Ok, maybe not a million. I hope Lian Hearn is writing more, and i heard there's a movie in the making for 'Across the Nightinggale floor.' !Enjoy the book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    Amazing book and trilogy

    Lian Hearn is an amazing auther. Her characters are so deep and believable that you are transported right to medival Japan. Takeo is such a strong person, along with his adopted clans and love. I deffinately recommend this book to everyone!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    Unbelievable!

    I loved this book it was so deep and yet so well written. I loved the way honour over came his rightful path. I love Takeo he is such a atrong character full of knowledge, he creates a great image of the young men of that time. I also like the women power tha Kaede shows, she is a such a great character. Im most pleased with the way it ended lookin forward to the 3 installment of The Otori Series. A very well written book, possibly my fave book...apart from the Fisrt Of the Otorti Series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2012

    highly recommended despite dreary beginning

    2nd in series, the continuing tale of the youthful lovers kept apart by politics and honor in Lian Hearn's alternative feudal Japan. The narration is compelling and kept me reading despite how depressed and without expectation of satisfying futures both characters (and landscape) seemed to be in the first part of the story. The rich descriptions of place, well-rounded secondary characters, the determination of Kaede and the evolving magical skills and resolving identity issues of Takeo were counters to the initial mood and in the end I found it a very satisfying listen and I can't wait to start #3. 4.5 stars - couldn't figure out how to get 1/2 star

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