A Single Rose by Muriel Barbary

A lyrical and exquisitely limned journey through pain, regret and suffering to joy. The evocation of Japanese culture and philosophy is soothing and enlightening.

A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery
Europa Editions
Paperback | $16.95
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There are books that can be read for no other reason than the beauty of the writing: this is such a one. From the very first page, the author’s consummate skill is astonishing and will surely cause the reader to reread passages and experience again the loveliness of their construction. Barbery’s writing is poetic: each word seems carefully chosen for sound, meaning and feeling. It is some of the best prose this reader has experienced in some time.


Each chapter of this tale of suffering and joy is preceded by a lovely piece of Japanese folklore or mythology, exquisitely rendered with the sensibilities of a short story writer: telling an entire tale in very few words, but with power and effect. In this way, each portion of the greater tale is brought into focus and provided with a foundation for understanding. Only praise can be given for this clever and satisfying device.


The threads of pain and suffering run red throughout, interwoven with the silver of enlightenment and the dark skeins of sorrow to combine in the tapestry of joy, emerging bright from the night of depression and regret. A woman who has known only unhappiness in her family; a mother who seemed never to escape from under the clouds of wrong choices, an absent father, unknown and unseen find herself discovering the errors in her vision of herself and the world to find that there is good, love and fulfillment to be had after all.


The descriptions of landscape, food, clothing and architecture are truly unique. Used to reading of the beauty of a sunrise, the wonder of a mountainside, the coziness of a private room or the hues of flowers and plants the reader will find here a transcendence of pure imagery into deeper meaning, effects upon the soul, the way the green of moss, the clicking of bamboo in the breeze or the patterns in raked sand speak to memory and regret, of pathways out of sorrow, of hope and redemption. It is masterful writing that moves the spirit.