Furi is a girl who lives a hard life. She has no family name. She was taken in as a young child and treated very poorly by her adoptive family, forced to spin silk for her mother. Only her adoptive brother, Yoshi, was kind to her. Not too long afterwards, though, she was sold by her mother to another woman who believed in whippings as punishment. Furi has a gift with crafting, especially with silk. Her weavings are pure art. And when strange, inexplicable things start happening around her, she slowly begins to unravel just who she is and what she’s capable of. Soon, she starts to fight for her freedom.
Spinning Silk is one of the 2018 SPFBO entries. It is a novel set roughly in the Japanese Edo period with some creative liberties. The writing was full of simple, yet effective imagery. For example, “Madame Sato went before me to the bottom of the winding footpath, her tiny geta grinding softly upon the gravel,” (ebook, Location 1977 of 4129, italics hers). The writing really helped the story to flow with a great pace. The settings and characters were vivid enough to paint a picture, but they weren’t so overburdened with details that it dragged the story down. In a way, it felt like a fleshed-out fairytale. There is a thread of magical elements, inspired by Japanese folklore, that runs throughout the book.
Our main characters are Furi and Shin, the gardener. Furi finds something strange about Shin. For example, his gardening abilities are almost as outstanding as her weaving abilities. As the book goes on, we see their complexities and growth. We see Furi grow from a naïve girl who just wants to escape being whipped, to a confident woman who takes action to escape her horrendous situation. The one constant is her ever-increasing prowess and love of spinning silk. Shin starts out as an enigmatic young man. But we slowly discover tear away the mystery. The characters are written in such a way that they have dimension to them.
I will say, though, that I did wish we got a little more out of some of the minor characters. At times a couple of them (such as the other servants) felt like they were there more to be antagonists toward Furi, rather than to be their own persons. Overall, however, this is more of a nitpick for me.
One disappointment I had was with the ending. There is a revelation, and then the book ends very shortly afterwards. To me it made the ending feel very abrupt. Had the consequences of the revelation been fully explored, it would have been perfect. Yes, we know the mystery, but what comes next? I personally don’t think this question was adequately answered. This was a book I would gladly have read more from.
In the end, I am very happy I read this book. The author has another book, Shin, that I definitely plan on reading. Spinning Silk truly is like a beautifully woven piece of art, one I would encourage others to experience.
[We received a digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]