I purchased this copy in June 2001, and on the frontispiece it says 4th printing. There are so many printing errors in this book it mars what might otherwise have been a sublime reading experience. I will give you just one example: on page 113 a line reads:
"Then came Koremitsu's house, he would be called a lecher and a child theif [sic]."
Now this made no sense to me, either as a sentence or in the narrative context, so I consulted the abridged edition (which I also have). The line should have read:
"Then came Koremitsu's unsettling report. He must act. If he were to take her from her father's house, he would be called a lecher and a child thief."
That's a total of 14 words missing between "Koremitsu's" and "house".
This is the most serious error in the book, but there are many others, and I've only read 1/4th of the book so far. This Everyman Library edition, the publisher boasts, uses acid-free cream-wove paper with a sewn full cloth binding. It's a beautifully designed book. If only the publishers had given as much attention to the soul of this book as to its body, it might have been worth the price I paid for it.
Books should come with a warranty, really.
The tale itself is about the 'shining prince'; Genji. Son of the emperor and one of his lowest consorts, Genji is fated to be one of the most important men of the age, but never able to truly ascend to royalty. This story, all thousand plus pages of it, details his life full of music, poetry, and efforts to win the hand of various ladies.
While starting out very episodic, Genji soon turns into a more refined tale, when all the threads of story come together to create surprising relations and events that will delight the imagination in their color and depth. By the end of the book, you will have lived through so much of the characters lives that each person comes into their own, and you cannot help but hope that all will end well.
I will say, however, that this book is somewhat difficult to get into for the uninitiated. There's much in the way of allusion to religion of the day (be it Shinto or Buddhism), and of customs that are barely mentioned due to being so commonplace at the time. As such, I would suggest something to introduce people to the Heian culture.
My first and best suggestion would be The Tale of Murasaki, written by Liza Dalby. It's a diary of the author of Genji, Shikibu Murasaki, pieced together from poems and the real diary, and filled in with further guesses as to her life. Compared to Genji, it is very approachable, and makes reading this story even easier.
I cannot recommend Genji enough, being quite possibly the first novel in the world, and certainly one of the best. For anyone with an interest in Japanese history, well-written romance, or just the best of the written word, Genji is sure to delight.