Sawako Ariyoshi : The River Ki
Instead of covering a single evening, this novel spans over 60 years (c. 1900 - 1960), which, of course, coincides with Japan's remarkable entry into modern geo-politics, including her victory over the Russian Navy in 1905, her invasion of China, and finally her defeat and occupation by the United States.
And instead of presenting isolated individuals - this novel presents three generations of a traditional family and how it changed in the modern world.
It's not a very long book. Perhaps the author had dreamed up several books worth of narrative, and then narrowed it way down.
The most detailed episode occurs at the end, as the major character, Hana, lies on her death bed and thinks about her family --- a scene that feels so real, the author may well have met such a lady at such a moment, and then written the rest of the book as back-story.
And basically that back story is the end of family, land based feudal society, for which Hana exemplifies the last and best of the grand dames: skilled in the aesthetic arts of koto and tea ceremony, while also proficient in classical Japanese literature and sensitive to the beauties of Kimono and ceramics; solictitous of her mother-in-law, supportive of her husband, and demanding of her children.
The perfect Japanese lady of a certain high status.
(BTW - regarding her support for her husband's career -- we're only shown one example - how she arranges for her brother-in-law, Kosaku, to marry the house maid he has gotten pregnant, and thus avoid scandal)
And one might note that unlike ideal European ladies of similar status, charity is not one her noble activitees. The tenant farmers in her village like her because she's not distant. And there is that episode where she entertains young peasant-class soldiers before they go off to war. But she doesn't help the poor and the sick, the way that ideal Christian ladies should.
(note: two of her favorite classics were the tales of Genji and the Heiki , both of which I have read and enjoyed. But it also mentions the last volume of "The Great Mirror" -- so I've had to order that series, and will begin reading it this month)
It's just a wild guess, but I'm guessing that the characters in this book were drawn from the author's family, and since it was written in 1960, the author would have been Hanako ( who, like the author, was taken by her parents to Java). So Hana may have been an idealized version of her grandmother.
Since the narrative relates how some care was taken in choosing Hana's husband, Keisaku, from among dozens of high-class applicants)-- we may assume that the one chosen is also an ideal person in his time, place, and social status -- i.e. the landed gentry.
He is a strong advocate for the economic health of his rural district -- joins all the relevant associations -- and is eventually elected to the national assembly.
He is also trying to be a modern man -- and he effectively disconnects the family from its high feudal status by giving much of its land to his younger brother, Kosaku, and selling the rest of it to finance his political campaigns.
And yet -- he is completely outside the major drama of national Japanese politics: fascism, militarization, and empire. He neither supports nor opposes it.
Indeed, nobody in this story either supports or opposes it; but there are two characters, Kosaku and Hanako's father, Harumi Eiji, who predict Japan's defeat.
The central story here is the historical change that occurs in just one generation. Fumio is as devoted to being modern as Hana, her mother, was to being the perfect wife.
Regrettfully, Fumio has no sense of that aesthetic which was so important to her mother, and she seems to look to magazines to tell her how things are supposed to be modern. And, unlike her mother, Fumio chooses her own husband in what might be called a love match.
Perhaps more importantly, she and her daughter are no longer separated from their mother's family the way that Hana had been when Hana got married and joined the family of her husband. So when the war forces families to send their children to safety, they often end up in the homes of the mother's relatives.