A deeply researched work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a great city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.
Through Tsuneno, a woman with no remarkable talents or aspirations, Stanley conjures a teeming world ... Tsuneno’s restlessness and bad luck make her a rewarding subject ... Stanley’s primary materials are letters from Tsuneno and her relatives, which are delightfully frank ... The couple squabble, divorce, and remarry, and Tsuneno’s fortunes continue their erratic, fascinating fall and rise and fall ... a lost place appears to the reader as if alive and intact.
... [an] enthralling portrait of an intrepid 19th-century Japanese woman and the city she loved. Stanley, a professor of history at Northwestern University, renders the world of that rebellious woman, Tsuneno, so vividly that I had trouble pulling myself back into the present whenever I put the book down. Stranger in the Shogun’s City is as close to a novel as responsible history can be ... what makes the book so captivating are not merely Tsuneno’s stubborn attempts at self-determination, but also Stanley’s enviable ability to make us feel as if we lived in 19th-century Edo with her.
... absorbing ... a compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy ... Ms. Stanley draws a richly textured picture of Tsuneno’s world and is especially attuned to quotidian routines, particularly for women ... previously brief flashes of Tsuneno’s willful personality spark into a blaze.