The Pure Land

The Pure Land

4.6 3
by Alan Spence

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The Pure Land resurrects the dramatic life of Thomas Glover, the Scottish businessman who helped overthrow the shogun and whose tumultuous love affairs inspired the opera Madame Butterfly and the musical Miss Saigon. Alan Spence has transformed this true story into an unforgettable hundred-year saga that culminates in the annihilation of Nagasaki.…  See more details below


The Pure Land resurrects the dramatic life of Thomas Glover, the Scottish businessman who helped overthrow the shogun and whose tumultuous love affairs inspired the opera Madame Butterfly and the musical Miss Saigon. Alan Spence has transformed this true story into an unforgettable hundred-year saga that culminates in the annihilation of Nagasaki. Thomas Glover is a gutsy eighteen-year-old in Aberdeen in 1858 who grasps the chance of escape to foreign lands and takes a posting as a trader in Japan. Within ten years he amasses a great fortune, helps to modernize Japan, and, on the other side of the law, brings about the overthrow of the shogun. Yet beneath Glover’s astonishing success lies a man cut to the heart. His love affair with a courtesan—a woman who, unknown to him, would bear him the son for whom he had always longed—would form a tragedy so heartrending that the story became immortal. Called “a page-turner of the first order . . . an engaging and vivid historical novel, but also a meditative work of art” by The Times of London, The Pure Land is a modern epic, a rattling good adventure, a devastating love story, and a journey of the spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Scottish writer Spence (Stone Garden) fictionalizes the life of Thomas Glover, a 19th-century Scots entrepreneur who built a mercantile empire in Japan, and whose life inspired Madame Butterflyand Miss Saigon. In 1858, the young Glover, son of a coast guard officer, works as a clerk in Scotland. He lives with his family, but longs to see the world, and takes a job in Japan with Jardine, Mathieson & Co., a British trading house. Soon, Glover is also working as an independent trader in arms and opium, among other things. As he forms connections with a number of different Japanese clans, Glover falls in love with a courtesan, and the consequences last for generations. He also slowly gets wrapped up in the fate of Japan, as the country makes the transition away from a feudalism fraught with clan violence. Spence opens this lively and epic historical narrative in 1945, at the moment of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki. Thoughtful and vivid, the novel adds rich detail to a life known mostly in broad strokes. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Fictionalized biography of the young adventurer-turned-businessman who helped shape modern Japan and may have inspired Madame Butterfly. Scottish writer Spence's fourth work of fiction (Way To Go, 2004, etc.) is a muscular historical novel focusing on one man's contribution to Western traders' penetration of the hostile East. Aberdeen-based Thomas Glover's youthful appetite for risk and opportunity is given full scope when he lands a job in Japan in 1859, working for traders Jardine, Mathieson & Co. Ambitious, hardworking and instinctively entrepreneurial, Glover soon has his own import/export business in Nagasaki, trading tea, silk, gold and anything else he thinks will turn a profit, including weapons. He disregards advice from the studiously neutral British not to get involved in local politics, supporting the Choshu clan that eventually leads rebel forces to overthrow the shogun and propel Japan into modernity. Female characters feature little and sadly in this story. Glover leaves behind an early romance and a son in Scotland; his first Japanese marriage fails when a premature child dies; another Japanese love, Maki, brings up his son Tomisaburo alone, thinking Glover is back in Europe. By the time the misunderstanding is cleared up, he has a new wife and a young daughter, but offers to take in Tomisaburo and give him a better life. Maki hands over her son, then throws herself into the river. Glover loses one fortune but moves to Tokyo and makes another; he dies in 1911, by which time Japan is becoming industrialized. Tomisaburo lives to see the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. A colorful, empathetic, melancholy-tinged portrait of a Victorian colossus.

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Canongate U.S.
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The Pure Land 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read.
A_G_D More than 1 year ago
Thomas Glover,a young boy in his teens is given the opportunity to cross the world and become part of the trading world in Japan. The story takes places in 1800s, when traveling across the ocean takes months at a time and when the trading business between continents is still dominated by hostility and old regimes. Determined to go beyond his little home town, he accepts the offer and embarks on a journey that will forever change not only his and his family's life but the life of entire nations. Soon after he sets foot in Japan, he becomes a respected individual in the trading business and his courage and determination to help Japan take full advantage of its potential eventually lead to the overthrow of Shogun. Glover leads Japan to a position of power: building their own ships and exploiting their own natural resources. But in spite of his success and financial gain in the business world, Tom Glover's personal life is dominated by uncertainty and pain. His love affairs have unexpected outcomes that will change the course of his life in as much of a drastic way as any other decision that he makes. This is a remarkable true story that is full of action, passion, love and exotism. I enjoyed it to the fullest and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in getting a better understanding of many aspects related to Japan's development as well as those who enjoy tumultuous love stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MadisonReads More than 1 year ago
In The Pure Land, Alan Spence has added personality to the textbook historic figure of Thomas Blake Glover and his struggle to modernize Japan and overthrow the Shogun in the 1860s. He creates an atmosphere of pre-modernized Japan that is mysterious and exiting. As an entrepreneur, Thomas Glover befriends and helps battling clans to end the reign of the Shogun and restore power to the Emperor. At short intervals in between, love stories blossom and climax at the end of the story, revealing the author's interesting idea on the Madame Butterfly story. (He hints that Tsuru, his wife, may not have been his soul mate...) Anyone looking for adventure in a foreign land should read this novel. However, if you're looking for a love story through and through, keep in mind that you'll only be reading short intervals. I would say that even though it seems that romance was an important part of his life, it has become a side note in the grand adventure of Thomas Glover.