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Child of Fortune

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  295 ratings  ·  35 reviews
By conventional Japanese standards, Koko Mizuno is an abysmal
failure as woman, wife, and mother--and she couldn't care less. She has succeeded in remaining true to herself in a stubborn struggle against powerful conformist pressures. Yet her resistance is largely passive.Self-absorbed, indecisive, she makes her own uncharted way through life,letting her husband, lovers, ev
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 1st 1992 by Kodansha (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)(RK)
There were times that I thought that a good title for this book could be “Men Explain Things to Me”. Just a thought. Besides, the book was first published in 1978 in Japan.

Kōko, the central character in this book, both charmed me and frustrated me. She charmed me with her stubborn demeanour, constantly struggling against the family that had oppressed her since childhood, and against the men who would not take her seriously, not as a lover, as a mother, as a person.

She frustrated me with her co
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Random 500 Great Books By Women Daily Update
Loneliness floats, mixes with the gray of the clouds and turns into ghoulish substance that permeates, creates a different world, a world of shadows, an illusion. The illusion becomes a way to manage reality, a parallel universe, some way to deal with the dark forces of the world because otherwise, how can one look forward? One refuses to look forward, instead, the present becomes a way of life, thereby illuminating the halfheartedness of parenthood, the selfishness of individuality:
The world
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up

Having enjoyed Territory of Light I was keen to check out Tsushima's other widely available novel, Child of Fortune. While the novels explore similar themes - isolated, divorced women raising children alone in 1970s Japan - I found this to be a strong novel but much heavier and more dispiriting read than Territory of Light.

Where Territory of Light was an often sweet story of a young woman struggling to raise her 3 year old daughter, Child of Fortune tells the story of Kōko, a 36 y
Daphne Vogel
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's funny - I spent the first half of this book reading it in a contemporary context, and only then realized it was written forty years ago. Many of the issues and reactions contained within remain unaltered, which is more than a little disheartening. Some might consider this book a difficult read because there's no crystal clear revelation or salvation. But I think the character's strength lies in her slowly increasing self-awareness, even in moments where it seems as though the entire world i ...more
The main character's "fortune" was in being wise. Her wisdom was gained from experience. The novelist carefully delineated the psychological (and physiological) aspects of pregnancy. She founded an alternate reality where various scenarios were already erected and accepted as true. This was how imagination, how fiction, built alternate realities.

Full review:
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve written before about Yuko Tsushima, the Japanese writer whose dreamlike novella, Territory of Light, was one of my highlights from last year. In her work, Tsushima frequently explores the lives of women on the fringes, individuals who defy societal expectations of marriage and motherhood – themes which are prominent again here.

First published in Japan in 1978, Child of Fortune revolves around Kōko, a thirty-six-year-old divorced woman, and her eleven-year-old daughter, Kayako. As the novel
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Child of Fortune was first published in Japan in 1978, and appeared in a revised version of Geraldine Harcourt's English translation in 2018.  As with Territory of Light, this novella focuses upon a female protagonist named Kōko, a young woman who has been 'defying her family's wishes' for some time.  She has, against what was viewed as acceptable in Tokyo society at the time, brought up her eleven-year-old daughter, Kayako, alone in her apartment.  After embarking on a 'casual affair', she find ...more
Marija S.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book.

Very similar to Territory of Light, but stronger and more to the point. I believe only women of certain age can truly understand it, it is bold and unapologetic, (yes, a feminist text too), writing about topics unpopular even 40 years later.

It is dealing with complex and sometimes mutually incompatible roles of a woman in society, walks all over dogmas of what motherhood or middle age or proper behaviour should be, stubbornly hurling away rocks that end up hurting itself (I l
Becca Sayre
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
My heart just broke a bit more in the name of all women of the world.
Kobe Bryant
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
a bunch of sad little moments
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an interesting, powerful, and multilayered portrayal of a woman's struggles to find her way in 1970's Japanese society this book is. The main character Koko refuses to comply with mainstream societal expectations in so many ways. Projecting an air of stubborn independence she pursues relationships with men who can never reciprocate her love in an equal measure. She works at a part time job teaching music to children rather than find steady, full time employment. She even alienates her 11-12 ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese, literature
This book keeps coming into my thoughts.

This book is old. The English translation came years after the original work, yet is still older than me. It's cheap online, but I would recommend the library/ILL first.

The version I read came with an introduction assuring readers that the issues the book discusses are actually a thing in Japan. I don't know Japanese issues well enough to guess if things like age of pregnancy (in the "old" sense) are still an issue nearly 40 years later, but I could belie
extraordinary. I liked this one even more than Territory of Light. It was one of those books that doesn’t have answers, is very happy to present a mystery to you and let you struggle with it as needed...and every thing in her world feels so real, like you’re in there with her, feeling the world press in from around you, everyone telling you what you have to want, flattening you into their understanding, caging you inside a self you will never be free from, if they’re with you...and for all of th ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
tsushima writes of a woman, koko. koko is strong, but she’s timid. koko defies all expectations, and she is predictable. koko is the most deeply complex woman i have followed in literature to date.

this novel took me months to read, and not even because i don’t like the style— tsushima’s stream of consciousness and ability to effortlessly jump from dream to reality, from past to present is god damn remarkable. it took me obnoxiously long to read this because it is so horribly depressing i literal
Matt Miles
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Child of Fortune tells a psychologically complex story about motherhood, family, dreams, roles in society, and the reliability of memory. Being a fan of Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light, I was worried Child of Fortune would be too similar, but I shouldn’t have been. Both are about single mothers and both have stunning moments of poetic imagery, but the effect is different as these are different stories about different people. In short, both are distinct classics and deserve as much attention a ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it
I debated between 3 and 4 stars -- I'd give it a 3.5. I loved her book Territory of Light. This one was a little harder to get through, but I did ultimately like it. It captured well the oppressiveness of societal expectations on a woman & single mother in Japan in the 70s, with a touch of humor and a touch of weirdness amid the despair and mild crazymaking. I am guessing this type of unvarnished portrait of a female interior life was probably pretty unique for the time. I think the main reason ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly brilliant. I read this in two sittings only because I had to go to work in between, otherwise I'd have gone from cover to cover. Somehow Tsushima, in Harcourt's excellent translation, manages to be both subtle and intense at the same time. I enjoyed Territory of Light but this is, for me, a whole level above.
Jun 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Koko, sister, daughter, memories, relationships, and hopes/problems and procrastination all swirling around. I imagine this one must have been difficult to translate - I had to sit and think about some the sentences for some time - but in the end is was a rewarding trip into the mind of Koko, and despite being melancholy in tone for most part, it was funny at times too.
Feb 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, japan
A mostly introspective story that takes place over a few months but unfolds the whole life of the protagonist. It has the usual Japanese trait of leaving most things open, more interested in exploring a situation than carrying out a clear narrative to its clear conclusion. Although I am usually left dissatisfied by that kind of story, in this case I felt that it worked well
Daniel Barker
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my third Tsushima book. It tackles issues seen in Territory of Light and in Of Dogs and Walls, yet it manages to be completely new and its own piece.
It's an absolutely beautiful little story.
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible novel. Moody and atmospheric, set against an eerily calm suburban backdrop -- irresistible layers. Feminist, in such a powerful way. Love, children, isolation, independence. And I think it has the most satisfying conclusion I have ever read, EVER... F*cking genius.
Matt Hunt
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Had to stop reading after 60 odd pages in order to have a sleep.
Couldn't seem to get started again. Which is odd because the first 60 odd pages were pretty enjoyable.
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was brilliant, but it really brought my mood down.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I forgot to ask myself who is the child of fortune when I was reading it, the mentally retarded brother who dies in a young age?
Minota McGillycuddy
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for understanding the psyche of the modern Japanese woman
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Koke is a thirty-something single mother, who discovers that she is pregnant once again, this time from a man she has a very casual relationship with. She has resisted her family’s pleas to raise her now eleven-year-old daughter at home and has instead fought for her freedom and the means to raise the child on her own. As the novella begins her relationship with her fractious daughter is unsteady, as she has moved out to live with her more stable and proper auntie. We witness as she is pulled fu ...more
J.C. Greenway
The main character in Child of Fortune, Koko, is not really doing what anyone wants her to. Having raised her daughter alone following a divorce, she has conflicting feelings on discovering she is pregnant by her latest boyfriend. Her daughter, Kayako, is at the age where everything even the most conventional parent does is embarrassing and is also taking the entrance examinations for an elite private girls’ Catholic junior high school attended by her cousin. Koko’s job as a piano teacher in one ...more
Nicholas Beck
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Subtle multi-layered story-telling with some vivid imagery both dreamlike and realistic. Strong characterizations with a twist in this feminist tale of a single-woman in Japan struggling to negotiate family and societal pressures and mostly succeeding despite oceans of self-doubt at times.
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese_lit
An "I-novel" written by a woman.
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500 Great Books B...: Child of Fortune - Yúko Tsushima 1 17 Jul 21, 2014 06:12PM  

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Yūko Tsushima is the pen name of Satoko Tsushima, a contemporary Japanese fiction writer, essayist and critic. She is the daughter of famed novelist Osamu Dazai, who died when she was one year old. She is considered "one of the most important Japanese writers of her generation" (The New York Times).

She has won many major literary prizes, including the Kawabata for "The Silent Traders," one of the

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