Thousand Cranes

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Read 12/01/2017-14/01/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

It isn’t often that I read a book and don’t want to review it for fear of shattering its beauty. Thousand Cranes is such a book. I can talk about what I love about it. I can boil the plot down to mundanities. Or I can tell you to read it and find out for yourself what makes it such a compelling book.

From the very first lines I was hooked. Continue reading

The Miner

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Read 17/12/2016-22/12/2016

Rating: 4 stars

In his introduction to this book, Haruki Murakami has all kinds of thoughts about why it isn’t a novel, and why, if Sōseki had had more time to think about it instead of a looming newspaper serialisation deadline to meet, it wouldn’t have been written at all. Continue reading

Silence

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Read 22/08/2016-28/08/2016

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Olympic Challenge

A while ago, I read John Dougill’s book about the Hidden Christians of Japan, in which the author goes on a pilgrimage of sorts to understand the history of Christianity in Japan. Dougill refers to Endō’s novel Silence. I was reminded of it when I read that Martin Scorsese was directing a film adaptation of the novel. And so, I bought myself a copy. Continue reading

A Personal Matter

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Read 30/05/2016-04/06/2016

Rating: 5 stars

LibraryThing Review

I immediately loved this book. Ōe’s writing style is incredibly Western, so much so that I found myself wondering during the first chapter whether it was set in Japan or not. It had a West Coast American feel, and put me in mind of Charles Bukowski and Kurt Vonnegut in its straightforwardness.

The main character, Bird, is unlike anyone in the family he has married into. He is a worrying and detached personality, similar to those found in Murakami novels. I recognised Ōe’s influence on Murakami when I read The Silent Cry, and this book cements that impression. Continue reading

Book Review: Japanese Society by Chie Nakane

I was reminded of this book today, while discussing Colourless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage over on The Reader’s Room. Here’s a review I wrote on my Japanophile blog.

Japanophile

Japanese Society by Professor Chie Nakane was a ground breaking book when first published in 1972, and has been cited in many books that followed it. It needs updating to take into account the changes in Japan that have happened over the past 40+ years, but its scope and anthropological investigative style means it’s still worth reading today.

I read the Pelican edition, which came out in 1973. I picked it up because I was interested in the perception that the Japanese are different to Westerners, and in how popular Western tropes of Japanese people being hard working, company loyal, and socially rigid in behaviour and levels of language had become so entrenched in Western thinking. I found the book to be full of interesting background to the development of Japanese society and why the Japanese behave the way they do in comparison to other nations, and found the social anthropology…

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Revenge

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Read 08/01/2016-09/01/2016

Rating: 3.5 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

Revenge is a collection of short stories from the author of Hotel Iris and The Housekeeper and the Professor. Each story stands on its own, but is also linked to one or more of the others, whether by a place, a person or, in one instance, the pages of the short story collection itself. There is an uncomfortable undercurrent to some of the stories, akin to that in Hotel Iris. Ogawa’s skill with language makes each one seem gentle, almost harmless, so that the horror revealed so calmly feels more unsettling.

It is beautifully written, many of the stories are unsettling, but for me there was something lacking – perhaps it needed to be woven more tightly into a novel, perhaps the short stories needed a little more depth. I felt as though I was floating on the surface, never truly immersed. I found myself wishing Ogawa had written it as a novel. For me, it would have been more satisfying that way. A three course meal instead of a buffet.

Journey Under the Midnight Sun

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Read 24/01/2016-30/01/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

In Journey Under the Midnight Sun, Keigo Higashino has used a very different style to that in his Detective Galileo series, something unlike anything else I’ve read within the crime genre. Initially, this wasn’t as satisfying a read as I was expecting it to be. I really enjoyed the previous books I’ve read by Higashino, and I wanted this to instantly be as good.

The first half of the book took longer to read than I was expecting. The style is episodic, and there’s little exposition, so I found it hard to get a clear sense of time passing. As I read on, it became clear that this was a deliberate ploy on the part of Keigo Higashino. The story needed to feel disjointed, so the reader would feel the way a detective investigating apparently unrelated events would feel. I also read that the story was originally serialised in a magazine, as discrete episodes. Continue reading