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After Windows for the Crown Prince by Elizabeth Vining (1952) this reader's hopes were perhaps unduly high for a perceptive portrait of the Empress of Japan. But this is a superficial, immature biography, semi-fictionalized in the free use of dialogue, quite evidently outside the bounds of possibility of the author's knowledge, and of scenes described that are only plausible figments of imagination. Nagako comes through as a rebel, within sharp limits, against the strictures of tradition. One follows in spares detail the steps of preparation for her role, and the rules that surrounded every phase of her life as Empress, wife and mother. But she, as a human being, remains a lay figure. The record compasses, too, the upbringing of Pr. Hirohito, who was to become the war Emperor, despite his years of effort to sustain peace. Ultimately, a tool in the hands of the powerful military clique, he was forced to acceed to their demands, and their interpretation of the wishes of his people. The birth of four daughters, before a son arrived, is duly recorded; the role of tradition once again in the steps of their upbringing; and finally- after the surrender- the appointment, at the Emperor's request, of a foreign tutor for his son- brings the record full round, to the point where Elizabeth Vining's much more penetrating story takes up the thread. Possibly some of the fault here lies in the use of a language foreign to the biographer (or possibly to the translator)- but this reads like an amateurish effort, shorn even of the color and glamor that its Oriental background might have provided. Disappointing.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1958
Publisher: John Day