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The Snow Kimono
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The Snow Kimono

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Jones | 75 comments Mod
Snow Kimono was a powerful novel and well worth the time invested in it. Not that it was a slow or hard read. I found myself gripped by it and by around two-thirds of the way through the book I really struggled to put it down.
The writing is lyrical and poetic and Henshaw has a way of crafting powerful imagery. ‘The unremembered was so much more vast than the remembered ever was.’ Or along a similar vein ‘Memory is a savage editor. It cut’s time’s throat. It concertinas life’s slow unfolding into time-less event, sifting the significant from the insignificant in a heartless, hurried way. It unlinks the chain. But how did you know what counted unless you let time pass?’
It is a wonderful, dark, powerful, disconcerting piece of work. It is a rich exploration of character as well as carrying an enthralling plot line. The interplay between the two main characters Jovert and Omaru and their unfolding stories will stay with me for some considerable time, hopefully with being savagely edited. It reminded me, in some ways, of the Coen brothers movies and plotlines
Whilst it is a gripping read it is a complex storyline to follow, with interweaving of characters. At times I found myself flicking backwards and forwards just to try and remember how things linked together. It’s hard to say this is a significant distraction though, and you can understand the style better when you’ve absorbed the whole novel.
I would also be interested to hear from others regarding how they felt about the morality or all the characters. I think the novel challenges on that front.
Would I recommend it to others. Mostly a resounding yes, though possibly not everyone. Having said that I’m going to strongly encourage my other bookclub to read it.

message 2: by Bev (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bev | 22 comments Wow! The Snow Kimono is an amazing novel. I agree with Chris that the imagery is indeed powerful. I felt entranced by its haunting, dreamy flow - the short phrases, the lack of quotation marks, the ghostly images of windswept inanimate objects, and the ‘floating’ conversations.

The revelation at the end of the book reminded me of Patrick White’s ‘Twyborn Affair’. If surprise endings are meant to make the reader do it again, it always works with me; so I happily read it again with a different perspective.

I loved the motif of the jigsaw puzzle and its relevance to the reader, where “the pieces are calculated to deceive, to lead one astray, in order to make the solution of the puzzle as difficult, as challenging as possible”.

The question Chris put to us about morals of the characters was also in the back of my mind during the second reading. To me, ‘Omura’s’ storytelling was a confession. Despite Martine’s belief that Katsuo was a “selfish, insensitive, narcissistic...jerk”, there were indications that this was not the case. For example, when Jovert described the death of his wife and son, ‘Omura’ cried; and when Jovert questioned whether he should contact his own daughter, ‘Omura’ was incensed to think that he wouldn’t. As Omura, these seemed like natural responses, but as Katsuo, they revealed deep emotion. He loved the women in his life to the point where he would do anything for them; suffer for them; even kill for them. He is now remorseful, ashamed, and tormented by the past.

Jovert himself had a dark past (torture, deceit, deaths of innocent people, adultery), but he had managed to keep them locked away. I believe ‘Omura’s’ stories convinced Jovert to take a similar line and confess to someone else what he has hidden for so long. As ‘Omura’ said, “We can only see our lives through the eyes of another”.

I loved Henshaw’s ‘Snow Kimono’. But even though I read it twice I still didn’t get the “connection” between Jovert and ‘Omura’. If anyone else can enlighten me it would be much appreciated. I get the feeling here that I have missed something important in regard to their having a “connection” as opposed to their relationship being just a “coincidence”.

message 3: by John (new)

John Kennedy | 16 comments Thanks for your postings, Chris and Bev.

I have to say my reaction to the novel was far more negative. It really is a difficult read, as we are constantly moved from story to story, between different times and places, and sometimes between what is 'real' and what is dreamed or imagined, all with minimal assistance from the novelist to guide us as to where we are, who is speaking, etc. I really do not see what artistic gain is achieved by this here.

I found the prose style hard to endure after a while. The constant short phrases and incomplete sentences became for me a tiresome mannerism long before I completed the four hundred pages.

I have read some reviews and I know some respected critics greatly admire the book as a philosophical reflection on the nature of narrative, the process of ageing, etc. But I have not seen any explanation of how the Japanese and French/Algerian narratives are meant to relate to each other. The novel often seems obscure for the sake of it: what, for example, is the relationship between Jovert and Thibaut, and why is Jovert, the senior officer, not meant to know about the street into which Thibaut is driving him (p. 263)?

I can understand that for some readers the lyricism of the novel might appeal, as perhaps might its quality as a set of puzzles. I have seen suggestions that one would get more out of the book on a second reading. But there are a huge number of good books waiting to be read, and a novelist who seems to set out to frustrate his readers, for whatever artistic purpose, is not one on whom I want to spend time.

message 4: by Louise (new)

Louise | 23 comments Thanks to Chris, Bev and John for your incisive reviews of The Snow Kimino. I'm disappointed that I did n't have time to read the novel but hope to be on board for the next selection.

message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie | 9 comments I appreciate everyone 's views on this book so far. I enjoyed the language of the book but struggled with the story until the final 100 pages or so when the pieces of the story told by Omura started to fit together. I also didn't uncover the true connection between the two main characters, perhaps the fact that they both had daughters that were lost to them in different ways was what drew them together. Another interesting book I was glad I got to read. Thanks

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