3.5 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
There are two short novellas in this book. The first is about a man called Taichi who was forced to cease work a number of years ago. They have somehow managed to survive on his wife, Natsuko’s wages from her part-time job. This is nothing unusual for her; she had a tough upbringing when her mother had almost no money and she and her brother live a hand to mouth existence.
She happens to see an advert for a spa and then realises that it is now based in a luxury hotel that her grandfather had taken her mother to when she was little. She rashly decides to treat her husband to a trip there even though she knows it is going to cost her a small fortune that she can ill afford. What she doesn’t expect is the waves of memories of her once comfortable life, that wash over her causing anguish and chasing lingering regrets.
She could hear the sound of the waves. Her tears, the waves of her emotions, had taken the form of a deep, soughing basso continuo. There was a sea in her heart, always undulating.
The second novella is about four sisters who are still living at home in their Tokyo apartment. Nanako is the youngest and still at college and they have all made a vow not to ever marry. All the sister have a close and intimate, relationship, almost bordering on obsession in Nanako’s case.
This changes when a man called S is new in the neighbourhood. The older sisters had first seen him at the Azalea Festival at the Nezu Shrine and from what Nanako could gather all three of her sisters had fallen in love with him. It goes from being a fairly harmonious and close family to one where they all want to be with this guy.
I have read a little Japanese fiction in the past, in particular, Murakami and Ishiguro. I always find that Japanese fiction has a slightly surreal way of looking at life. This book has that same otherworldly feeling too, because I get a slightly disconcerting feeling observing a very different culture to mine. I think that it is a good thing to have my perceptions broadened and challenged with regards to literature. I quite liked these stories and Kasimada has a way of getting these reflections of her society through her characters. The second story might not be for everyone though. It might not be for everyone, but I have found that reading four books on one country from very different perspectives has given me a range of insights and perspectives on the place and I would love to visit it one day.