Japan, 1868: the last shogun has been defeated, the age of the emperors is about to begin - and in Japan's frozen north a diehard band of loyalists plans a desperate last stand. Hana is just seventeen when her husband goes to war, leaving her alone and very vulnerable. When enemy soldiers attack her house she flees for her life across the shattered city of Tokyo and takes refuge in the Yoshiwara, its famous pleasure quarter. There she is sold into a brothel and forced to train as a courtesan. Yozo, a traveller, adventurer and brilliant swordsman, returns to Japan after six years in the Victorian West to discover that the world he left behind him has been destroyed. Travelling north to join his rebel comrades, he is captured during their final battle. Escaping, he makes his way south to the only place where a man is beyond the reach of the law - the Yoshiwara. There in the Nightless City where three thousand courtesans mingle with geishas and jesters, the battered fugitive meets the beautiful courtesan. But each has a secret so terrible that once revealed it will threaten not only their union - but their very lives...
Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring and it was there that she lived for over fifteen years. She has written many books about the country and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, and Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, and has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4 and the BBC. She now lives in London, but still makes sure she returns to Japan at least once a year.
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