The Commoner

The Commoner

A Novel

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
It is 1959 when Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman--a rising star in the foreign ministry--to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince. The consequences are tragic and dramatic. Told in the voice of Haruko, meticulously researched and superbly imagined,The Commoneris the mesmerizing, moving, and surprising story of a brutally rarified and controlled existence at once hidden and exposed, and of a complex relationship between two isolated women who, despite being visible to all, are truly understood only by each other. With the unerring skill of a master storyteller, John Burnham Schwartz has written his finest novel yet.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese, c2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385515719
Branch Call Number: FICTION Schwartz John 01/2008
Characteristics: 351 p. ;,22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Aug 18, 2016


Oct 16, 2012

This was an interesting story but did not invoke as much emotion as I was expecting. The end was very dry and anti-climatic.

Jul 14, 2012

Would have made an interesting story in more capable hands.

PhylBee Sep 12, 2011

I just finished this book for our book discussion group and I thought it was an excellent story. While the author claims it to be fictional, it is obviously based on the Imperial family. I agree with "pokano" that the two young commoner women who married into the imperial family only to lose their spirits is a very sad thing. What could be worse than marrying into a European royal family? Marrying into the Japanese imperial family!

Aug 17, 2010

The author candidly admits that the Japanese Imperial Family was the inspiration for this novel but claims the book is solely fiction. Ha! I'll bet nearly everything in the book except for the ending has a basis in fact. The Imperial Household has basically driven two exceptional women nuts and this is the story of how it was done. Very interesting book.

Dec 11, 2009

Crisp language, but too devoid of emotion. The plot jumped too much and the pace varied too much as well.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at My Library

To Top