The Pillow Book Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Pillow Book

The Pillow Book is the diary of Sei Shonagon, a courtesan at the imperial court of Japan in the late 10th and early 11th century. In her journal, Sei Shonagon describes events that happened in her daily life, e.g. her dealings with the empress, whose lady-in-waiting she is, and a number of men, who come into her life. First she writes about her life chronologically, later on she changes her writing style to topical, with paragraph headings like: Pretty Things, Children, Illness.
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Best part of story, including ending: I didn't like the journal very much, because of the way it is presented. Sei's writing is constantly interrupted by remarks made by the editor of the book. And there is no difference in lay out to indicate that or anything, so this is really confusing and irritating. Another drawback for me was that I didn't think Sei's texts were all that original or funny. I guess her sense of humor is just not mine. So, to sum it all up, for me it was a disappointing book.

Opinion about the main character: She tries to find ways around the demands made on her by the empress and the men in her life, to be able to be her own person, which is commendable, but she is rather arrogant and condescending in the process.

The review of this Book prepared by Benten a Level 8 Sooty Shearwater scholar

Chapter Analysis of The Pillow Book

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   prostitute Ethnic/Relig. of subject (inside)    -   Japanese Gender/Class story?    -   woman's story Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Ethnic/regional/gender    -   Yes

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   prostitute Ethnicity    -   Japanese Nationality    -   Japanese


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Japan Misc setting    -   Fancy Mansion Century:    -   distant past

Writing Style

Pictures/Illustrations?    -   None How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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