The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery

This lovely debut novel takes place during a crossroads in Japan’s history. During late nineteenth century, Japan began opening it’s doors to the West. The old and new cultures clashed and had to find a way to coexist. The Teahouse Fire tells the story of Aurelia, a French girl who moves to Japan with her missionary uncle after the death of her beloved mother. Escaping a fire that kills her uncle, she’s found the next morning by Yukako, daughter of the masters of the tea ceremony Shin family. Aurelia becomes Yukako’s closest companion, taking on the Japanese name Urako. As the Shin family faces challenges as the world around them changes, Urako tells how her puppy love for her older sister Yukako becomes a deep unrequited love over the years. Eventually stuck in a disastrous marriage, Yukako finds that she has the skills and ingenuity to keep the family afloat as she adapts the traditional tea ceremony to her purposes. Told with lush and precise details through the eyes of a complicated narrator, I enjoyed this inventive novel.