With his easily readable and entertaining style, Hillsborough does
a great job of elucidating the complex customs that ruled Edo Period life
and politics. Since this is more a historical novel than a faithful
biography, the author is free to put together lively dialogue and portray
the characters from the point of view of an omniscient narrator. This goes
a long way toward alleviating the typical dryness of a scholarly work of
Hillsborough has painted a clear and thorough
picture of the times and overlaid it with a compelling
story of ingenuity and bravery, supported by 16
years of historical research in Japan. This is definitely
one not to be missed by anyone interested in
Japanese history, the Meiji restoration or the spirit
and determination o f the warrior classes of feudal
British Kendo Association Newsletter
Many historical biographies written in a literary format are entertaining.
Very few are such that you are a different person after you have read
them. I cannot recommend Ryoma more highly.
Sword Forum Magazine Online
Ryoma is the first literary biography in English of Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the people principally responsible for the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Ryoma was the founder of Japan's first modern corporation; a swaggering swordsman who packed a Smith & Wesson revolver; and one of the most colorful figures in 19th century Japanese history. Ryoma is a cultural icon in contemporary Japanese culture and a figure in numerous novels and popular movies. Now biographer Romulus Hillsborough brings to the English speaking audience the definitive and personal history of an amazing and memorable man. Ryoma will be of immense interest to those with an interest in Japanese history, culture, and anyone who enjoys an exceptionally well written biography that adheres to the highest standards of scholarship and literature.
Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-67) was an important figure in Japanese history from the critical years of political change following the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 through the Meiji Restoration in 1868. His career as an expert swordsman, political revolutionary, and early believer in naval power and economic development has been chronicled in Marius Jansen's academic biography, Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration (Columbia Univ., 1995). Hillsborough, who spent 16 years in Japan, eight of them working on this book, turns to the techniques of fiction to create a more imaginative rendering of his subject. Ryoma is more like a well-researched historical novel in the tradition of such Japanese works as Eiji Yoshikawa's Taiko (Kodansha, 1992) and will be appreciated by readers who like their history in this form. Recommended for public libraries.--Scott K. Wright, Univ. of St. Thomas, St. Paul