Night Boat – Alan Spence

Night Boat became one of the books I read just in time. You know, there are some books out there, and you have to read them at the right time. And I like to think that they wait somewhere for us, or magically we come across them. For me, the first “right time book” of this year is Night Boat. Alan Spence mastered a not so easy story with his fluent and beautiful style.


Night Boat describes the life of master Hakuin Ekaku, one of the prominent figures of Japanese Zen Buddhism. While Hakuin’s life is a story in itself, the author allows you to take a lesson from this master. Honestly, I did not read the book with the trouble of being enlightened; I did not even think of it.

Night Boat - Alan Spence

Now you all know that I am interested in Japanese literature and culture, and I have read this book just because of this curiosity and that I want to understand a little bit of Zen Buddhism. Master Hakuin and Zen Buddhism will stay with me with a little bit of a romance, thanks to this novel.

Throughout the book, I encountered dozens of situations and sentences that I thought about. I had a hard time understanding some of them, and I wrote some to hang in a place that I can always see at home. If you want to learn about Zen Buddhism and read the life of Hakuin Ekaku, which is a fascinating life, Night Boat will be a book you will love. I also recommend it to those who are looking for different reading experience and a beautiful book. Enjoy!

Night Boat - Alan Spence

Night Boat

On the side of a mountain, in eighteenth-century Japan, sits a man in perfect stillness as the summit erupts, spitting fire and molten rock onto the land around him. The man is Hakuin. He will become the world’s most famous teacher of zen. This is not the first time he has seen hell.

Hakuin’s quest for truth will call on him to defy his father, to face death, to find love and so to lose it. He will ask, what is the sound of one hand clapping? And so he will master his greatest fear. Night Boat is the story of his astonishing life.

Alan Spence

Alan Spence is a Scottish writer and is Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen, where he is also artistic director of the annual WORD Festival. He was born in Glasgow, educated at Allan Glen’s School there, and so much of his work is set in the city

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Japanese Literature – A Literary Journey

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