Killing Commendatore

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Read 05/01/2020-22/01/2020

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

Tokyo Ueno Station

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Read 17/10/2019-20/10/2019

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

The Nakano Thrift Shop

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Read 08/08/2019-12/08/2019

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

Kitchen (台所)

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Read 11/04/2019-16/04/2019

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

Convenience Store Woman

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Read 28/02/2019

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

Sweet Bean Paste

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Read 02/12/2018-06/12/2018

Rating: 3 stars

My best friend lent me this book. She knew that I would enjoy it, and she was right.

Within the first couple of pages, Durian Sukegawa’s description of the novel’s setting made me yearn for Japan and the holiday adventures my husband and I like to take exploring the side streets and everyday bits of Japan away from the tourist attractions. The description of the dorayaki shop where Sweet Bean Paste is set made me think of the Japanese drama series Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Continue reading

Wrong About Japan

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Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading

Pachinko

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Read 06/05/2017-11/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Pachinko was on the list for The Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge. I ordered it from the library, but lots of people wanted to read it, and when it eventually arrived it was too late for the challenge. I’d read enough about it to still want to read it, though. Continue reading