Agent : Bill Hamilton
Lesley Downer is a novelist and writer whose great passion is Japan. She first went in 1978 and lived there off and on for more than fifteen years. She now lives in London with regular forays to Tokyo.
She’s the author of four novels, The Shogun Quartet, set in nineteenth century Japan, the most dramatic period in Japanese history, when the country was convulsed by civil war and transformed from rule by the shoguns into a society that looked to the west. Her most recent novel and the prequel to the series, The Shogun’s Queen, was published in November 2016 and takes place largely in the Women’s Palace, a harem of three thousand women. The second, The Last Concubine, was shortlisted for 2009 Romantic Novel of the Year. The Courtesan and the Samurai and Across a Bridge of Dreams, published in paperback as The Samurai’s Daughter, complete the series.
Her non-fiction works on Japan include Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, for which she spent six months living among the geisha, shared their lives and found herself slowly but surely being transformed into one of them. The book is the definitive work on geisha, told through stories of historical geisha and the many geisha that she befriended. Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West is the colourful and dramatic story of Sadayakko, the geisha who was Puccini’s model for Madame Butterfly. On the Narrow Road to the Deep North was short listed for the 1988 Somerset Maugham Travel Book of the Year and filmed by WENT and Channel 4 in 1991 as Journey to a Lost Japan. The Brothers was a 1995 New York Times ‘Book of the Year’. She also presented a Japanese cooking series, A Taste of Japan, on BBC2.
She is currently working on a new novel. She also tutors students on the MA programme in Creative Writing (non-fiction) at City University, London.