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 Commoner is
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. Download and start listening now!