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A True Novel

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  737 ratings  ·  129 reviews
A remaking of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan
A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—
Paperback, 854 pages
Published November 12th 2013 by Other Press (first published 2002)
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  737 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Patrice Hoffman
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Japanese retelling of my favorite classic Wuthering Heights? Where do I sign up?

Minae Mizumura writes beautifully about the life of Taro Azuma. Taro’s a man who intrigues her family with his enigmatic and sometimes dark personality. Mizumura meets this man as a private chauffer for her father’s boss. As time goes on, the only chattering heard about Taro is that he’s slowly making a name for his self and acquiring massive amounts of wealth. The information of Taro’s history is unknown until Mi
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Five stars for the first half of this novel. I am eagerly (and impatiently) waiting for the publisher to send me the second half.

Don't be scared off by the page count. When I requested this book, I wasn't sure if I was up for almost 900 pages. But I flew threw the first half in 3 1/2 days, without rushing. I suspect when I get to the end I will want it to go on even longer. I will want to know more about Taro and Fumiko and Yusuke and the author, who inserts herself very cleverly into the novel.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A True Novel

First of all, the highest praise to Juliet Winters Carpenter and Ann Sherif, whose translation of “A True Novel” sets the bar higher for literature in translation. So often books translated from Japanese have a stiff, quaint feel, but their work on “A True Novel” is gorgeous; fluid, emotionally true. The characters spring off the page, completely realistic and believable whether they wear kimono or jeans.

“A True Novel” is being touted as a retelling of “Wuthering Heights,” which is
Ronald Morton
The title of this book “A True Novel” apparently specifically references a type of literature popular in Japan a while back. From the Prologue:
The term “true novel” once played a crucial role in the development of modern Japanese literature. The period when Japan opened its doors to the West, beginning in 1868, coincided with what might be called the golden era of the Western novel. It also coincided with a period when an evolutionary theory of civilization--one which included the idea that art
Paul Fulcher
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Perhaps the best tribute I can pay this novel is that after 854 pages I was still enthralled and disappointed that it ended.

At face value this is a Japanese re-imagining of Wuthering Heights, complete with a Heathcliff (Taro), Cathy (Yoko) and Edgar (Masayuki), the maid Nelly who tells much of the story (Fumiko) and the Lockwood listener to the tale (Yusuke).

You don't need to have read Wuthering Heights to appreciate A True Novel, indeed it may be better not to have done so and avoid the risk of
J. Watson (aka umberto)
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
A little perplexed by its genre-like title, in early last January I first came across this book with its sombre brownish covers denoting a sort of Japanese design. I wondered then if I had time and motive to keep going till the end; however, I was attracted by the two lines in capital letters above and below its 7-line synopsis proclaiming "SPECIALLY SELECTED FOR THE JAPANESE LITERATURE PUBLISHING PROJECT (JLPP)" and "THE WINNER OF JAPAN'S PRESTIGIOUS YOMURI LITERATURE PRIZE" (back cover). There ...more
Claire Reads Books
This book is often billed as a Japanese retelling of Wuthering Heights, which is fair enough given that in the lengthy prologue Minae Mizumura explicitly acknowledges that this is her goal. And while this novel certainly owes its central, tempestuous relationship and main character archetypes to Emily Brontë, the ways in which A True Novel builds upon and departs from Wuthering Heights is what makes it a worthwhile read. Where Wuthering Heights is rooted in the desolate moodiness of the 19th-cen ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
"A True Novel" is what it says, a true story (or rather a re-imagined story) set in Japan and the US that spans several decades between WWII and the 90s. It starts with a very long (160+ page) autobiographical prelude where the author shares her experiences with the protagonist of the novel.

This novel is a retelling of a simple love story between two individuals from a different socioeconomic class. This is probably the only similarity between "A True Novel" and "Wuthering Heights". Overall, fa
Chris Blocker
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Take Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, move the story to post-war Japan, stretch it to twice its original length, and you have A True Novel. The premise sounds great and the two-volume set is absolutely gorgeous. Looks can be deceiving however. Not only is this novel a chore to get through at times, but the pages literally fall out of this cheaply-bound puppy like sheet music inevitably falls from the music stand on the night of the performance.

It's been some years since I read Wuthering Heights
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read, hands down.

Reading this was like peeling an onion, layer by layer, tears leaking every step of the way.
At its heart, this book is about love, but it's also about jealousy, racism, class mobility, the westernization of Japan post-WWII & the emergence of the middle class.

I think this book is better than the source its adapting: Wuthering Heights. The English translation is the best English translation of any Japanese source material I've ever read. I hop
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
This book is billed as a modern Wuthering Heights set in Postwar Japan!!!!! LEMME AT IT! I dove right in.... and then waded through 80 pages and felt no further along than I was on page 1. Seriously, you can begin this book at page 80 and you'll be just fine. If there's anyone out there willing to keep wading, I'd love to hear if it turns a corner. I'd be happy to pick up where I left off if it's worth it. The two-star review reflects only the first 80 pages. I would be happy to increase that ra ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I kind of wish I hadn't read this book...because all other romance novels I have read subsequently seem so cliche and dull and happy. In some scenes, I had to walk away from the novel since I became way too absorbed...Jesus, this book is so disturbing and heart breaking it's going to haunt me for the rest of my life.
Kathleen Flynn
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bronte-businesss
A really fantastic book that did so many things at once and all of them well. As others have said, both a loose retelling of Wuthering Heights and a multilayered exploration of postwar Japan. Also about America and Japan, wealth and poverty, nature and modernization, the effects of time and much more. Moving and amazing constantly insightful.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Storm raging outside. Me, reading Minae Mizumura's book inside. While the storm is still raging outside, I just finished the book. Loved it. Longer review soon.
Leticia Rivas
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Primero que nada, lo que todas las reseñas que circulan sobre "Una novela real" cuentan: la vida de Minae Mizumura en Nueva York, su resistencia a hablar el inglés, su añoranza por su lengua natal y su vida dedicada a leer literatura japonesa. En esa casa de Nueva York donde vivió de chica, conoció a Taro Azuma, un joven japonés que llegó a los Estados Unidos como “chofer” (algo extraño para los inmigrantes japoneses que solían emigrar con puestos gerenciales en compañías niponas).

La novela, ent
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this completely by chance and now I don't remember my life before I started reading it. I would've been fine reading hundreds and hundreds more pages until every last bit of the houses had crumbled to dust, and nobody lived anymore that remembered these families because it's hard to let go. I don't want to. It's been surreal living with these characters knowing every detail of their lives through the generations. There's a story within a story within a story and now I feel like I have to ...more
Joaquín Jiménez
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No soy capaz de escribir algo sobre esta novela ahora. Seguramente mañana lo haga. Tengo pena.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't let the length dissuade you-the writing is beautiful and I chewed through this thing. I can't speak to how it compares to Wuthering Heights (which is the supposed inspiration) but it's an engaging family drama with a really wonderful sense of place in both Japan and the U.S.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary. The reviews I read before reading A True Novel compared it to Wuthering Heights, which I think is mmm maybe a little deceptive. I love Wuthering Heights, of course, and it's easy to see where the comparison comes from but this book and its characters don't have the cruelty and the will to destroy the lives of the people they love that you see in that book. Sorry, not sure if that counts as a spoiler.
The tale that Mizumura tells is a little bit gothic in the sense that there are g
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Book Lust

It’s no secret that I love Japanese literature. There’s something about it that takes over my mind as I’m reading and creates an addiction. It began when I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. That wasn’t so long ago, but it’s become one of my favorite genres. This book I’ve just finished, A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, solidified it even more.

A True Novel is a story within a story within another story. It revolves around one mysterious man with a tragic history. The book begins in New York wi
the gift
251117: it has been years (decades...) since i read 'wuthering heights' so it is difficult to find parallels beyond the general theme of poor boy obsessed with rich girl and as one of my efriends calls it 'full complement of angry, mean, soulless, raving, spiteful, whiny, &/or lunatic characters.' and another efriends says 'nietzche-spouting toddlers'... so maybe it is fortunate i have forgotten it. the characters here are much more likeable, from what i recall, though to the end become sort ...more
Ellie Danisch
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This misty reimagining of 'Wuthering Heights', set in post-war Japan, honestly and brazenly unites the East and West. Now don't let the long prologue throw you off. This book may take you some time to get into (it is 900 pages).
Nonetheless, this nestling doll of stories dreamily follows Heathcliff Esque (protagonist) through a childhood, riddled with poverty and discrimination-to then his stupendous growth in wealth. This novel opens beautifully into a study of Japan's postwar Westernization an
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-first-reads
I won this book from Goodreads First Reads.

This book was an amazing read, I loved how well it was written and how poetic it was. I've never read "Wuthering Heights" before but after reading this book I'm going to have to read it and compare the two stories.

This story was definitely not one that I expected and the ending was unexpected as well. If I wasn't a mother I wouldn't have put the book down, the characters and story were so captivating it was almost like the reader was there living throu
Feb 06, 2015 added it
One of the best novels I've read in many years. A retelling (and relocation: Japan) of "Wuthering Heights" with a surprising twist at the end. The novel has many frames and stories within stories, so it takes quite some time to get to the actual Bronte story--but, hey, it's 850 pages. Chapeau to Juliet Winters Carpenter for the translation!
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are some books that move you, entertain you, shock you, as you flip through their pages. Others leave you angry or dissatisfied, only for you to develop a newfound appreciation for them days or weeks after you’ve finished reading, after having let the plot and characters simmer in your mind, haunting your thoughts, an enduring presence while you go through your day. And then there are still others that sink their claws into you from the first page, burrow ever deeper as you progress throug ...more
Chris Beal
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well, I wondered: was A TRUE NOVEL really true? But by the time I was 3/4 through the two-volume work, I decided no, it couldn't be.

So two questions arise then. The first is, how do I know it's not true? What are my assumptions about "real" life as opposed to fictional life? I think my conclusion was based on the fact that everything fit so neatly together. We expect this in a novel, consider it a flaw if integrity of plot, at the very least, is lacking. But life isn't like that. Or, rather, may
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book isn’t for everyone. It’s a story within a story within a story, and I happen to love those sorts of things. It’s very long and meticulously detailed (even to an unnecessary extent in some areas), but I found it to be engrossing from beginning to end. While at its core it’s a family drama, it’s also full of details about Japanese culture and changes in Japanese society from 1950 to the present. This was a brand new subject for me and proved to be both an enlightening and entertaining re ...more
Tabitha Vohn
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: being-nosy, high-brow
I read Book one. It's well-written, but I am SO frustrated that it's taking the author hundreds of pages just to get to the story. It's like if Bronte had devoted 200+ pages to Lockwood. Ugh.

Hoping Book Two redeems itself. Saving it for a later date.

Love the photos though!
John Miele
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. An enlightening read.
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How do I describe this novel? It haunts me in ways that I find hard to articulate and even understand. I picked this book up first, because it was about postwar Japan and secondly, it was about star crossed lovers-a “Wuthering Heights“ set in Japan, or so the reviewers said. ”Intriguing,” I thought and bought the book. But from the very beginning it became clear that this was so much more than a Japanese Wuthering Heights.

The book begins with the author, a novelist, explaining that she was given
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See 水村 美苗.

Minae Mizumura (水村 美苗 Mizumura Minae, born 1951) is a novelist currently writing in the Japanese language.

Educated in the US, she wrote her first published work in the English language, a scholarly essay on the literary criticism of Paul de Man. She is often portrayed as a Japanese novelist who questions the conventional boundaries of national literature. Her novels include Light and Dar
“But for someone like me, who moved into an entirely different world when still quite young, it’s as if a deep gap divides my past and my present.” 3 likes
“Time flew over me, its black wings spread.” 1 likes
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