The Ginger Tree: A review of the screenplay

by Stefan Chiarantano, Jan 28, 2006 | Destinations: Japan / Tokyo

I love reading screenplays and was very pleased to pick up a copy of the screenplay 'The Ginger Tree' by Christopher Hampton, which was adapted from the novel by Oswald Wynd, in a second hand bookshop.

The story focuses on the life of Mary Mackenzie, a young Scotswoman, who goes out to China at the turn of the century to join her fiancé Richard, a military attaché to the British Government, whom she eventually marries. While he is away observing the Russian-Japanese war of 1904, she has an affair with a Japanese count, Kentaro. She finds herself pregnant. She tries to keep her pregnancy a secret but is found out. Her husband sends her backing. She has shocked the British community. She is intercepted on her journey and whisked away to Japan where a new journey begins for her.

She delivers a healthy baby boy only to have him stolen from under her very nose several months later by a servant. She goes temporarily insane. Despite her efforts to get her son back, she fails. She even appeals to the British ambassador who attended her wedding to Richard in Mukden City. Kentaro has taken the child to be brought up by a suitable adoptive Japanese family. The British ambassador offers her repatriation. When the servant who whisked her baby away returns to pick up her things, Mary discovers her and nearly kills her. She refuses all support from Kentaro and branches off on her own. Her friend, the Baroness Aiko, finds her a job in a clothing department store.

She eventually works her way up to become head of the clothing department and then strikes off on her own, setting up her clothing department store in the Ginza district. She becomes a successful businesswoman. She doesn't sever her ties with Kentaro. When his wife dies, Kentaro offers to marry her but she refuses. He still doesn't tell her where her son is.

The Second World War happens. Kentaro has her repatriated to save her from the internment camps. On the journey to England while the steamer is stationed off Malaysia, she has a brief meeting with her child, now a grown up man, serving in the Japanese Imperial Army. It's a bittersweet ending to a bittersweet life.

I loved reading it. It reminded me of the way things are done in Japan, its treatment of women, the caste system, and Japanese traditions.

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