The Snow Fox

( 4 )

Overview

"A spare, subtle, moving love story that builds and sustains its own utterly believable world." —Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post
One thousand years ago, chaos loosed itself upon Japan, upending an era in which the arts flourished. At the dawn of 250 years of civil war, in the opulent court of Lord Norimasa, the beautiful but cruel poet Lady Utsu wages war with men's hearts and holds the fearsome lord and his devoted samurai Matsuhito in her thrall. As the two men raze Japan's landscape in futile battles for ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.47
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$14.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (70) from $1.99   
  • New (8) from $3.95   
  • Used (62) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

"A spare, subtle, moving love story that builds and sustains its own utterly believable world." —Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post
One thousand years ago, chaos loosed itself upon Japan, upending an era in which the arts flourished. At the dawn of 250 years of civil war, in the opulent court of Lord Norimasa, the beautiful but cruel poet Lady Utsu wages war with men's hearts and holds the fearsome lord and his devoted samurai Matsuhito in her thrall. As the two men raze Japan's landscape in futile battles for unity, Utsu falls for Matsuhito even as Lord Norimasa continues to love her. The epic romance of Utsu and Matsuhito resumes itself decades later, when they meet as vagrants so transformed by time that they no longer recognize each other; they are reunited through their mystical connection to a pair of snow foxes that are their only company in the Japanese wilderness. The heartbreaking story of their renewed love is fraught by the Japanese concept of mono no aware—life's ephemeral nature—that weighs on the lovers. Reading group guide included.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Schaeffer tells her story in epic style, as if it were being related by a chronicler contemporary with the events described. Much is not explained, creating the illusion that the knowing reader is also a part of this world. When, for example, Lady Tsukie, Lord Norimasa's wife, has a child, we are expected to take it for granted that archers will twang their bows to keep evil at bay, that exorcists will be summoned. The novel's language is slightly stilted and portentous, like a translation of an ancient text. We see events not directly but from the perspectives of various participants. Everything is described obliquely -- sometimes confusingly -- through dialogue and dreams, memories and thoughts. — Lesley Downer
Publishers Weekly
Critically praised for her remarkable capacity to evoke time and place in her gorgeous novels (Polish concentration camps in Anya; the Vietnam war in Buffalo Afternoon), Schaeffer here transports the reader to medieval Japan in a haunting tale of thwarted love and unsolved mysteries. Lady Utsu, renowned both for her beauty and her cruelty, is the ward of the great Lord Norimasa. While Norimasa has been kind to Utsu, as a test of loyalty he forces her to kill her lover. When Utsu falls in love again, with Norimasa's prot g , the samurai Matsuhito, she flees the palace. Though they are unaware of the coincidence, Utsu and Matsuhito each adopt a pet fox named after the other, as surrogate for and symbol of their yearning. Their poignant reunion decades later in the snow country, mixing bliss and grief, becomes a transfiguring event. Schaeffer creates an atmosphere as delicate and precise as an etching, yet raw with violence. The story is permeated with cultural details, from palace etiquette to the customs of childbirth. It's a world of extreme gentility and utter barbarity: while the upper classes weave poetry into their formal conversations, peasants are slaughtered like animals, and victorious warlords display heads on spikes. As Utsu and Matsuhito experience passion and grief, the plaintive leitmotif is the fleeting nature of life. The plot doubles back upon itself, as Lady Utsu and Matsuhito recall earlier incidents in memory and dreams. This device adds depth, but it also slows the narrative; readers must be patient. In the end, however, the novel achieves a cumulative, transporting magic. Agent, Jean V. Naggar. 6-city author tour. (Feb.) Forecast: This is a perfect dead-of-winter book, and should entice readers with its elegant jacket image of a demure nude. The easy comparison is Memoirs of a Geisha, but Akira Kurosawa's film The Seven Samurai (Schaeffer's original inspiration) is a better reference point. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 11th-century Japan, two long-lost lovers are brought together again by a pair of snow foxes. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A carefully researched if rather ho-hum tale about a Japanese courtesan who scorns all but one of the men obsessed with her: the latest from the prolific Schaeffer (The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat 1998, etc.). Lady Utsu is a cruel mistress, as her aged servant Aki knows well. Behind closed screens, the women grind glass in a mortar to kill Lord Tsuronosuke, the uncle of her lover, Lord Norimasa. Knowing that the gluttonous Tsuronosuke will be unable to resist the delicacies set forth at their private feast is just the sort of irony that Lady Utsu relishes. Perhaps she will commemorate the occasion by composing a poem or two. Days later, hearing from Norimasa about Tsuronosuke's slow, agonizing death brings a faint smile to her delicate lips. But back behind the screens she goes, passing long hours in sewing and scheming with the other women of the palace. She pines for a freedom she cannot have, composes more poetry, and so forth. When not glumly contemplating moonlit gardens or beheading people, Lord Norimasa occasionally visits her or his jealous wife, Lady Tsukie, and their seven ugly children. But Lady Utsu pays little heed-she has seduced Matsuhito, Lord Norimasa's samurai retainer. Though loyal to his lord, Matsuhito finds the feral charms of Lady Utsu irresistible. Indeed, she is associated in the narrative with wild animals, among them a stray cat that miraculously survives a beating by a servant, and a magical white fox. Wandering through medieval Japan, Matsuhito meets just such a fox in his wanderings, which shape-shifts into Lady Utsu, and the lovers are reunited. Meandering and unfocused, written with a labored simplicity that will remind many of another well-meaningWestern chronicler of the mysterious East: Pearl Buck. Agent: Jean Naggar/Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393326529
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 982,799
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (1940 - 2011) was a Professor of English and author of fourteen novels, six poetry collections, and other works.

Biography

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's was known for her poetry and novels, which include Anya, Buffalo Afternoon, and The Madness of a Seduced Woman. Born in Brooklyn, she attended the University of Chicago in the '60s. She returned to New York City in 1967 to teach at Brooklyn College, where she met her husband, Neil Schaeffer. In 2002, the Schaeffers moved back to Chicago, where Susan served as a visiting professor in the English and Creative Writing departments at the University of Chicago. She died in 2011 at the age of 71.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Schaeffer:

"I am a very reclusive person. This is absolutely true. I can spend weeks at a time in the house and I don't mind at all. When I'm working, I become the world's worst correspondent, don't answer letters and barely make phone calls. I begin to think of the world outside as hermetically sealed, unreachable. This is hard on my friends who think I have either died or forgotten about them entirely. When I finish working for the day, I think about this and am swamped by guilt, but I've never been able to change my ways."

"My first job was horrible, and it was a good thing it was the only job I could get at the time. I worked in Boston for a publisher in the medical order department. By ten-thirty in the morning, I was finished with the day's work, and I had to spend the rest of the day appearing to be busy. After that, I was determined to finish my degrees and never have to have such a job again—although I did have one such job after I finished my Ph.D."

"My mother insisted I work during the summer before I began working at Brooklyn College, and I ended up at a religious T.V. station where scripts had to be typed scrupulously so that the minister did not find himself reading, ‘And the minister pauses here for an advertisement.' The T.V. station was very pleased with me, but I had a headache the entire time I was there. Since then, what headaches I've had were brought on only by me."

"I love old things—people, furniture, photographs. Old people know so much. Old artifacts appear to be trying to tell the stories of their lives and often inspire stories, if not novels, of their own. Time in Its Flight began when I found a picture of a child who was in his bed but who had been photographed by a photographer standing outside of the house who took the picture through a window."

"When I asked why anyone would have photographed a sleeping child while standing outside, the man who owned the picture said that was a ‘mourning picture.' The child had died, was probably contagious, and could only safely be photographed from a distance. I was struck by the difference in the nineteenth century's attitude toward death and my own. ‘There are a lot of pictures of dead children,' the owner told me, ‘and a lot of people who collect them. People took hair from someone who died and wove the hair into flowers and wreaths. People collect those, too.' I still have the first mourning picture I saw. It grew directly into Time in Its Flight."

"I collect far too many things because each one always seems as if it's about to tell me a story. There must be an incredible cacophony in my house that I no longer notice because by now, I've grown used to it."

"I love dolls' houses. When I first began writing novels, I would invariably begin work on another dolls' house. My third novel, Time in Its Flight, must be one of the longest novels in the world, and during the time I worked on it, I created two dolls' houses and populated them with tiny dolls, each wearing Victorian costumes. When I look at the dolls, I still can't believe I had the patience. But there is something about creating a little world as you create a dolls' house. The making of a dolls' house involves enormous concentration and I would work out how I needed to write a novel while I was constructing it."

"I hate deadlines. I'm always sure I'm going to miss them and am convinced that if I miss so much as one deadline, I will never meet another one again. This is because I believe myself to be a basically lazy person. Instead of missing deadlines, I finish everything early and then fume when other people don't tell me what they think of my work at once."

"Life often seems impossible (I can't be the only person who often thinks this), and at such times, the solution is weather. If it is raining or snowing, I watch the rain or the snow fall. If I am stuck when writing, I get out of the house and go to The Point and watch the waves in Lake Michigan. Sometimes simply standing on the back porch and feeling the cold air sting my skin is enough. Weather is a remarkable thing. It is always there and it is always different."

Read More Show Less
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 25, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      August 26, 2011
    2. Place of Death:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Chicago, 1961; M.A., University of Chicago, 1963; Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1966
    2. Website:

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions from the Publisher
1. The structure of a novel-the events and characters-is the narrative plot. But there is also an emotional or intellectual "plot" in an imaginative work. What does the world of The Snow Fox say about the world in which its people live? What is the view of this world meant to communicate to the reader? Are there truths evident in that world that also rule the lives of people existing today? If so, which ones?

2. Matsuhito goes across a stream in search of persimmons, but on his way to pluck the fruit, he finds a box buried in the river. In the box are three things. What are the contents of this box meant to represent?

3. The Snow Fox begins with the story of the four children. Why is this important to the novel? Does this story have any importance in understanding what follows?

4. Lord Norimasa is, at times, very brutal. What motivates him? Is he an entirely savage person?

5. When Matsuhito and Lady Utsu meet, they do not recognize each other for some time. They have both aged, but is there another motive that explains their unwillingness to recognize each other? If so, what is it?

6. What significance do the two foxes have in this work?

7. Small narrative events often give a reader an opportunity to understand the major themes of a novel. Why does Susan Fromberg Schaeffer have Matushito discover the man in the cave? Is what he finds there important? The same question can be asked of Matsuhito's encounter with the eta or his encounter with the starving man in the old woman's hut. Why are these events important?

8. Some readers wished for a happier ending for this novel. Would you have preferred one or does the ending feel right?

9. If, at the end of their lives, Lady Utsu and Matsuhito had been asked whether they had led successful lives, what do you think they would have said? 10. A novel often has images that recur until they become themes. In The Snow Fox, one such image is fire. Another is snow. Are the two themes linked? Are there other such recurring images that build into themes?

11. Several authors have complained that many historical novels borrow a setting from the past, but have their characters behave as if they had contemporary concerns and customs. Do you find that a problem? How does The Snow Fox work toward or against this issue?

12. The events of The Snow Fox take place over eight hundred years ago when customs were very different and people's views of the world were very dissimilar. When you read a historical novel, do you hope to acquire information about another era or do you also read such a novel expecting to illuminate your own life, different as it may be? Did reading The Snow Fox cast any such light on your own view of the world?

13. Do you think that Schaeffer believes that there is such a thing as happiness? How do you think she would define happiness? If you think that she does not believe happiness exists, what in the novel shows that happiness cannot last?

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's previous novels include Anya, Buffalo Afternoon, and The Madness of a Seduced Woman. She lives in Chicago and in Vermont and teaches at the University of Chicago.

Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
The Snow Fox

A Novel

"A spare, subtle, moving love story that builds and sustains its own utterly believable world."-Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World

One thousand years ago, chaos loosed itself upon Japan, upending an era in which the arts flourished. At the dawn of 250 years of civil war, in the opulent court of Lord Norimasa, the beautiful but cruel poet Lady Utsu wages war with men's hearts and holds the fearsome lord and his devoted samurai Matsuhito in her thrall. As the two men raze Japan's landscape in futile battles for unity, Utsu falls for Matsuhito even as Lord Norimasa continues to love her.

The epic romance of Utsu and Matsuhito resumes itself decades later, when they meet as vagrants so transformed by time that they no longer recognize each other; they are reunited through their mystical connection to a pair of snow foxes that are their only company in the Japanese wilderness. The heartbreaking story of their renewed love is fraught by the Japanese concept of mono no aware-life's ephemeral nature-that weighs on the lovers. Reading group guide included.

"A haunting tale of thwarted love and unsolved mysteries...achieves a transporting magic."- Publishers Weekly starred review

"Susan Fromberg Schaeffer is, was, and always will be a wonderful writer."-Alice Hoffman

"Schaeffer tells her story in epic style....She conjures up a society defined by both exquisite beauty and bloody battles."-Lesley Downer, New York Times Book Review

"Love, poetry and severed heads on pikes: A novel with some of the majesty of Cold Mountain immerses you in the complex social world-and heinous cruelty-of medieval Japan."-Laura Miller, Salon

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    What a read!

    I thought this book was amazing. The character development was unbelievable. I was instantly transported and felt that I was watching the story take place right in front of me. I would definitely recommend this to all the book junkies that want to escape to another world.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2004

    Susan Fromberg Schaeffer is right on again

    I await each of her novels with great expectations. In Anya, Buffalo Afternoon and the others, she place you in the time and space of her works. The Snow Fox does it again! She speaks of the Japanese warlords as if she had been there to record the events. Splendid.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)