Rating: 5 stars
This was the second book I read by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, and it was an absorbing insight into the social niceties of early 20th century Japan. Previously, I’d read In Praise of Shadows, following a lead from another book I can’t recall now.
The Makioka family has known better times and now, with war looming and austerity taking hold, they are finding it difficult to maintain standards. They are also reaping the consequences of their past aloofness in marriage negotiations in trying to marry off the third sister. The youngest sister is a modern woman, champing at the bit to live an independent life. Second sister Sachiko and her husband Teinosuke do their best to navigate their way through society’s expectations and the changing times they live in. I was torn between feeling sympathy for Sachiko’s frustrations with her younger sisters and empathy with youngest sister Taeko’s nonconformity.
The characterisations are beautiful, and I was immersed in the story completely. The ending is a little abrupt, but as I’m not always a fan of neatly tied up finishes, it didn’t bother me too much.
We visited a traditional indigo dyeing workshop in Kyoto in May 2015, which received its name from Tanizaki, something the family is very proud of. I was glad to have read three books by Tanizaki by that point. It made conversing with our hostess easier!