Grass For His Pillow: Tales of Otori, Book Two

Grass For His Pillow: Tales of Otori, Book Two

by Lian Hearn

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

Grass for His Pillow is the second book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn. Don't miss the related series, The Tale of Shikanoko.

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...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594480034
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/01/2004
Series: Tales of the Otori Series , #2
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 245,771
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: HL790L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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. Don't miss the related series, The Tale of Shikanoko.

What People are Saying About This

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)

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?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Grass for His Pillow 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
    a9_jsc More than 1 year ago
    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.
    derPoppet More than 1 year ago
    Captures the culture well. Alot is understood without being spoken.
    Zues More than 1 year ago
    The tone of the book is enough to keep the readers of the edge of their seats wondering what will happen!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book was so good because of its balance between war, love and culture. it is a fantastic read.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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.
    moekane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    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 listening 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.
    krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is the second book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn. This book picks up where the first left off. Takeo leaves Kaede for training under the mysterious Tribe; whose supernatural abilities Takeo has inherited from his father. As his training concludes, and he is asked to take out certain missions, he must ask himself if his loyalties will lie with the Tribe or with the Otori? Kaede meanwhile is left on her own to return home and see what state her family is in. Kaede struggles to consolidate her power and claim the inheritance she was left in a world that is run by men.This was a fitting second book for this series. It moved along at the steady, descriptive pace of the second book. Although for some reason I found myself getting bored while reading this book. The lush descriptions, while detailed, didn't bring the book to life in the way I hoped they would. I had a little trouble understanding some of the stupid decisions made by Kaede and Takeo along the way. Despite these misgivings, if you liked the first book you must read the second book. It is very much in the same style of the first book and continues the story of Kaede and Takeo. This book definitely builds to a climax preparing you for the war and conflict of the third novel.
    ericknudson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Follow-on to Across the Nightingale Floor (book 1 of "Tales of the Otori". Picture Harry Potter in feudal Japan... Well, a little more sophisticated than that, but similar magical realism.
    ShellyS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    The sequel to Across the Nightingale Floor, set in an alternate medieval Japan, picks up a few months following that book. Takeo has reluctantly left the love of his life, Kaede, and gone with The Tribe, his father's people, as part of a deal he made with them to allow him to avenge Otori Shigeru who had rescued him from certain death in the first book and become his adopted father. The Tribe claimed him due to his father having been a Tribe assassin who'd run away from that life.In this book, Takeo, whose special talents and heightened senses surpass that of most of the Tribe's people, is being trained as an assassin, but the elders don't trust him, nor does he trust them. He believes his destiny lies elsewhere, but he's obligated by the agreement he'd made, to stay, until his heightened hearing reveals to him that he'll be killed on an upcoming mission. He escapes, instead, and sets out on a journey to claim Shigeru's domain from Shigeru's deceitful uncles and unite the many lands of the island realm.Meanwhile, Kaede has returned to her home to find her mother dead, her father a step short of madness, and the estate in disarray. Though it goes against the laws of society for a woman to act like a man, she sets out to unite her family domain with that of her recently deceased kinswoman's, and the book follows these parallel story threads until Kaede and Takeo meet again, setting up the action for the final book of the trilogy.This is a fully realized realm, with well-drawn characters, young people who make mistakes yet believe in their cause. The writing is plain and crisp and the book rarely lags. I've just started reading the next one and can't wait to read the fate of Takeo and Kaede.
    crom74 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    As good, if not better, than the first. Hearn continues with her story of love, war, duty, and acceptance. I can't wait to read the next...
    maggie1944 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Is it often, or even always, true that the second book is more satisfying than the first, in a series? We know the characters (unless you are reading George R.R. Martin), we know the setting, and we've got some of the plot under our reading belt. This second book definitely was satisfying. I became more attached to the main characters and their story, I learned more fascinating details about their world. I don't know whether to describe this book as set in medieval Japan, or not as it is fiction. But the author definitely has done her homework and the books are full of interesting, and picturesque, details making me feel as if I were there hearing the noises, seeing the scenes. But even though the environment is completely different than the one where I live, nevertheless, I was very identified with the main characters and am completely cheering for them.
    Capfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book picks up the thread pretty much immediately after the end of the first book in the series, Across the Nightingale Floor. This one has more of a dual thread running compared to the first one, however; in that one, Kaede and Takeo may have started off separately, but everything basically entwined together in one plot. Here, each of them has their own set of trials and their own story, and the book feels the richer for it.Again, it's set in the Three Countries, but now, Kaede is trying to hold together her lands, and Takeo is learning more about his inheritance and working out how best to live his life. The plotting is still complex and fairly surprising, and the writing is still sharp. The only thing to dislike about the book is that it really feels like it's meant to be a companion to the one after it; lots is left up in the air, to a greater degree than at the end of book 1. But it's still quite good, and I'm enjoying the series thus far.
    shaesong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book is like the Matrix II - filler. details that you need to know, but aren't really exciting enough to make a full book about. It goes into the politics of the tribe somewhat and you learn more about Takeos background and why Shigeru chose him as a son. The story also follows Kaede as she begins to claim her inheiritance and learn how to rule in a men's world.
    cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I almost never re-read books, but I read this one twice and loved it equally both times. The second installment of the Tales of the Otori Trilogy, Grass for His Pillow alternates between two linked stories: Lord Otori Takeo's quest to avenge the death of his adopted father and Lady Shirakawa Kaede's struggle to reclaim her domain in spite of traditions that deny women power. In the first book, the characters felt like puppets manipulated by the demands of the plot, but in this one, they are three-dimensional human beings. Takeo is intriguingly torn between his pacifist upbringing, his longing for vengeance and the requirements of the tribe of ruthless assassins who have adopted him. Kaede, meanwhile, believably transforms from a political pawn to a powerful woman without becoming a cliched "girl power" character, making her one of my all-time favorite female characters. Both of these characters, along with an interesting supporting cast, struggle through a suspense-filled plot that kept me turning pages long after midnight. At times, reading this book was like watching a good horror movie: being able to guess exactly what was coming kept me glued to my seat, unable to tear my eyes away. Perhaps some people would say the book is predictable, but for me, this only intensified the suspense. This is an excellent choice for readers seeking a good escape on a Sunday afternoon -- just beware that you'll have to dash to the bookstore to buy the third installment as soon as you've finished this one.
    yoAZ More than 1 year ago
    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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