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Download The Commoner: A Novel Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Commoner: A Novel, by John Burnham Schwartz Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,623 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Burnham Schwartz Narrator: Janet Song Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A unique literary adventure, intimate, exotic; wonderfully imagined and achieved. The narrative impels the reader from first to last, immersing us in its flow of ancient acceptances and new demands. Splendid. Shirley Hazzard, author of The Transit of Venus and The Great Fire
  • A fascinating and moving book in which great harm—all the more painful for being quiet and impersonal—befalls characters who, with one exception, are entirely innocent and sympathetic. The Commoner is a rare novel, wonderfully researched and beautifully written. Peter Matthiessen
  • Schwartz pulls off a grand feat in giving readers a moving dramatization of a cloistered world. Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Adi4826 | 2/7/2014

    " I enjoyed the writing but it was so sad to me "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Evelyn Porter | 2/5/2014

    " An interesting story about the Japanese Imperial family and Japanese customs. While the book is based on real-life events, I thought it often lacked the depth and deep emotions that must have plaqued the young Empress. In the end, it made me very thankful for the daily freedoms I am able to enjoy. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Trinny | 1/31/2014

    " It was just too slow for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Laura Christoffersen | 1/29/2014

    " Wonderful book. the ending is perfect and not what might be expected. "

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