Rating 4 stars
James Clavell’s Shōgun was published in 1975. Five years later, it was adapted into a television mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain, which I was allowed to stay up past bedtime to watch. Ten years after that, the novel reached 15 million sales worldwide. It’s a true blockbuster novel. I hadn’t read the book until my friend Lisa lent me her copy, a well-read 1982 edition she picked up on the pound shelf at the local superstore. When I started reading it, it felt like pure escapism. There came a point, though, during my reading, when real world events made me reflect on the way human nature doesn’t change, our political systems behind their veneers of democracy are still feudal at heart, and to live through interesting times makes you fodder for future historical fiction. Shōgun is still a cracking yarn, though. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
First published in Japan in two volumes in 2017 and issued in English translation in 2018, Killing Commendatore is the fourteenth of Haruki Murakami’s novels to be published in the English language.
In this instalment of his epic tale of men who don’t understand women and don’t fully understand themselves, Murakami has chosen to tell the story of an unnamed artist. The novel incorporates a trio of mysteries. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
A Fearsome Heritage: Diverse legacies of the Cold War is a collection of academic essays on the material culture of the Cold War and a multidisciplinary approach to its history. It makes a case for the influence that the Cold War has had on the world, from the domestic lives of those living under its psychological shadow in Europe and the USA, to those living alongside nuclear power stations (also sites of manufacture of weapons grade nuclear material) and nuclear test sites. It takes in archaeology, history, art, architecture and cultural studies in its examination of material culture and what that material culture can tell us about something that has been hidden behind military classification for so long. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
Tokyo Ueno Station is a ghost story, an alternative history of Japan and a critique of Japanese society. Beginning among the homeless community who live in and around the busy commuter station near Ueno Park, it reaches back through time to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the post-war economic boom, the migration of workers to Tokyo to help build the Olympic park in 1964, and the devastating tsunami of 2011.
The narrator of the tale is called Kazu. Through him, we see a different Japan to the one portrayed in travel programmes and newspaper articles. It’s a harrowing story of loss and abandonment. Continue reading
Rating 3 stars
Read for Women in Translation Month and the 20 Books of Summer readathon.
Hiromi Kawakami’s second novel was a change of pace from my previous read this month. Set in a thrift shop that definitely isn’t an antique shop, it follows the lives of shop owner Mr Nakano, his sister Masayo and his two employees Takeo and Hitomi. Hitomi narrates the day to day happenings around the shop. Continue reading
I have 149 books that I own on my to read list. 78 of those are physical books that teeter in a pair of piles in front of one of my bookcases. When I read that Sandra (A Corner of Cornwall) and Paula (Book Jotter) are doing the 20 Books of Summer readathon hosted at Cathy’s blog 746 Books (I thought my to read pile was bad!), I decided this was the thing that I needed to focus my mind and get 20 of those books read. Continue reading
Rating 2 stars
I first found out about Dendera at an author event at my local Waterstone’s bookshop. I’d gone along with a friend to hear Sayaka Murata speak about her novel Convenience Store Woman. For me, the presence of Yūya Satō and discussion of his novel was incidental. The host of the event thought otherwise, talking more to Satō and with more interest in Satō’s book. Satō came across as an affable chap, pleased with his sort of morality tale, sort of horror story, and I thought I’d give Dendera a try. Continue reading
Rating 5 stars
Kitchen is the first novel by Banana Yoshimoto. She’s written a few more since then, but so far I’ve only read The Lake. I enjoyed that one well enough, but I enjoyed Kitchen a whole lot more. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
I went to a Japan Foundation event at my local Waterstone’s bookshop last week to hear Sayaka Murata interviewed about her novella Convenience Store Woman. Another author, Yuya Sato, was also interviewed about his novel Dendera.
Both are prize-winning authors in Japan with many titles to their names. As ever, though, few have been translated into English.
I found the event strange but enjoyable. The interviewer seemed more comfortable talking about Sato’s novel and his approach to writing and asking Sato more probing questions than he did engaging with Murata. There was an awkwardness about his interactions with her. Fortunately, the audience seemed more interested in her writing and ideas, so the Q&A made up for the interviewer’s deficiency.
There was also an inbuilt awkwardness about the interview being conducted through a translator, with all its attendant pauses and whispers. The translator did an incredible job, making me realise that my own Japanese skills are far from adequate, never mind good.
I came away wanting to read both books, but more intrigued by the premise of Murata’s.
As luck would have it, when I started to tell my husband about the event when I got home, he revealed that he owns a copy of Convenience Store Woman and it hopped straight to the top of my list of what to read next. Continue reading
It’s the first Saturday in February which means that it’s time for the Six Degrees meme. I’m on time, too. This month we’re starting with Fight Club by Chuck Pahlaniuk. Continue reading