**spoiler alert** Argh, another review written that was lost. Apparently it's Goodreads little way of telling me that they don't approve of my attempt...more**spoiler alert** Argh, another review written that was lost. Apparently it's Goodreads little way of telling me that they don't approve of my attempts at multitasking. As always we'll accept that what I wrote before was a work of articulation and insight while this is a mere poor, inferior reflection of that lost glory.
To sum up my earlier attempt, I just couldn't relate with the narrator of the story, Mari, who left me feeling disconnected.
While I was reading I couldn't help but hear the niggling literature class/book club discussion questions in the back of my mind like, "the concepts of pretty/ugly are repeated throughout the novel. Explain the significance to the narrator. What does it mean to you and how does that compare?" or "when fish washed up to the beach it impacted the entire community from the locals to the tourists. However when the nephew was questioned he merely said 'the coastline turned dark'. Explain the significance of the rot found on the beaches and contrast that to the island's perspective of the same incident. In what ways can this be compared to the relationships between Mari, the Translator and his Nephew?" Well, maybe that last one wouldn't be a question actually posed to students/club affiliates but on and on it went on the sidelines of my mind. (The entire concept of the Nephew was pretty neat actually)
Now constructive thinking is fine and dandy but usually I like to immerse myself in the story, lose myself to it completely. Yoko Ogawa's writing (or the translation or both) has a wonderful flow that's quick and easy to consume. It has a lovely seamless quality to it which in a lot of ways makes the subject matter all the more disturbing. She's lulling you with the sound of her voice but then you really hear the words and the alarm sets in, the "excuse-me-but-did-I-just-read-that-right-oh?-I-did?-Okay-then." I should clarify and state this novel wasn't putting me to sleep.
I think, for me, the hardest part was for me to read this as I think the author wanted me to. That there are many shapes and forms of love (if one can call it such), that narrator was innocent and the Translator less so. That when Mari said 'no' she was really meaning 'yes'. That last to me is the dangerous portrayal. I've heard men say to me jokingly, "she'll say 'no, no, no' then 'no, don't stop'" but what about the women who do mean, "no" and "stop"? What if writing like this can be used to justify actions like that?
There were so many parts in this novel where I would stop and think, "I'm pretty sure this novel isn't going to go there but in most circumstances something like this would end extremely badly for Mari." (Yes, in a different way, it did) Sure, I read way too many true-crime books, I've been reading a book on Ted Bundy recently and boy, wouldn't all of this be right up his alley? For me, I couldn't help but see it as an extremely dangerous situation uncomfortably romanticized. This book could easily have had all the makings of a serial killer/kidnapper. Perhaps my way of thinking makes me like those on the island at the end of the book.
And there was I, naively thinking this was going to play out like a different version of the Housekeeper and the Professor in those beginning chapters. Boy, was I wrong.
Anyway, I think despite my reservations, I think (with a big question mark at the end of that) I liked the story? No, correction, I liked the writing, the construction of the story though it also made me uncomfortable throughout. I also don't know that this is one I would recommend to my friends. It's definitely left me with something to think about. (less)
**spoiler alert** What to say about this one? Intertwined stories with an underlying sense of something sinister? Perhaps leaving one with the expecta...more**spoiler alert** What to say about this one? Intertwined stories with an underlying sense of something sinister? Perhaps leaving one with the expectation that something yet worse is to come? Some of the stories start off innocuous enough only to betray themselves a dozen sentences later, usually with a rather startling admission.
There is a subtlety and ambiguity to Ogawa's writing which is typically Japanese. Very rarely do we get a character name and if we do it's usually an initial alone (Dr. Y, Mrs. J) Sometimes even the gender of the narrator is not precisely evident (come to think of it, this may be a statement only true to the English translation as in the Japanese version it may be apparent as there are different gender-based ways to say "I"). Even the character descriptions and locations are vague, usually with enough given to define the person but also leaving much to our imagination. These stories could take place almost anywhere, these characters could be almost anyone. Maybe that's what the author wants us to think--to second guess the girl behind the counter at the bakery, the beautician who cuts our hair, the receptionist at the hospital. Many of the stories start off like a fairy tale and even the ones that don't still have that quality to the story-telling.
All in all, I very much liked the book and I in fact wish there had been more of these strange little stories than the eleven we were treated to. I will definitely check out the other books she has written.(less)
**spoiler alert** This one definitely presents a slightly different format from what I've read of Murakami's works in the past. It's almost like readi...more**spoiler alert** This one definitely presents a slightly different format from what I've read of Murakami's works in the past. It's almost like reading a movie script with the camera angles described in detail as we're only allowed to see what he directs our attention to.
It's a glimpse of a day in the life (or night as it were) of the two sisters Asai and an assorted group of night-owls. A lot, especially at the end, is left open to interpretation. In many ways, there is in fact no concrete ending as it's only a peek into their lives so those seeking resolution may be in some degree disappointed. It had resolution enough for me though. (less)