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The Doctor's Wife
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Book Club > 1/18 The Doctor's Wife - Sawako Ariyoshi

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Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 156 comments A few days til new year, yay! Opening this thread for January book club: The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi, if anyone has some early thoughts. This group read The River Ki months ago, but I missed that one, so this is my first Ariyoshi. Looking forward to it.


message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments This will be the last of Ariyoshi's English books for me (she also has 4 short stories that I have been able to get copies of)...

I loved 2 of her books, and one not so much, but by most accounts this is her best. Am looking forward to this!

As with all her work, we will likely see family dynamics, strong women pushed down, and quite possibly river metaphors.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 156 comments Josh wrote: "This will be the last of Ariyoshi's English books for me (she also has 4 short stories that I have been able to get copies of)...

I loved 2 of her books, and one not so much, but by most accounts..."


Out of curiosities Josh, which books of hers did you like and not like so far?


message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments Loved Ki and Twilight Years.

Kabuki Dancer (which I'll have finished tonight) lacks depth of character and is similar in structure to Forest Gump, in that the character bounces through history (basically the unification of Japan) meeting those involved and witnessing events while never really getting what's happening.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 156 comments Josh wrote: "Loved Ki and Twilight Years.

Kabuki Dancer (which I'll have finished tonight) lacks depth of character and is similar in structure to Forest Gump, in that the character bounces through history (ba..."


Ah good to know. I'd been eye-ing The Twilight Years and The Doctor's Wife. How much I will read further depends on the reading on this one.


Nicki | 5 comments I have sent a request to the library to borrow this book. Looking forward to reading it and joining in with this book club.


message 7: by Smiley (last edited Dec 29, 2017 02:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Smiley  (reader2009) I enjoyed reading her "The River Ki" (I'm sorry I missed its discussions) in 2014, her narrative on rural Japan is so reminiscently wistful that I wonder who I should read next.
A year later I had her brownish, second-hand copy "The Doctor's Wife", I read and found this novel humanely and medically amazing.


message 8: by Carol (last edited Jan 05, 2018 06:02AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1227 comments I started this yesterday. It is slower going for me than I anticipated but for good reasons.


message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments Finished chapter 3


The river metaphor I expected came on the 1st page. Leaving your family like crossing a river to a new world.

A lot of names right of the bat, I doubled back to make sure I knew who everyone was, and this helped.

Look forward to others comments along the way!!


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1227 comments I'm a couple of pages behind you @Josh.

After Makioka, I was perhaps kinder/more understanding of Sajihei's reaction to the proposal than I would have had I read this first. Otsugi is characterized by someone as pushy, but any other approach likely would have been rejected without more, so the ends would seem to justify the means.

I haven't been, but should, make a names list. Great prompt.


message 11: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments For anyone interested, I'm doing all of Ariyoshi's books on my blog over the next 2 months.

First up is Twilight Year's.

https://ianjoshyateswriting.blogspot....


message 12: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim | 152 comments Just finished it, and I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed this one. I liked The River Ki, but this was a significant improvement. The story as a whole was more interesting; I found the dynamic between the characters fascinating and the writing to overall be much better. Perhaps it’s the translation, or perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind on Ki to appreciate it, but the use of metaphor worked for me much better here. For example when the animals receive food, but the family is undernourished. On the same pages (84 and 85 on my edition) Kae is the only human who is well fed. The comparison between them both being useful is clever and says much about the characters (the animals are useful for future experiments and Kae because she is pregnant). In both cases it is a matter of the future and not so much out of concern for their full well being.

Overall this was a very interesting read.

I can probably think of more to say, but I'll have to do it later. I’m in need of sleep. Just wanted to comment though as I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this one and am eager to see what other readers here think.


message 13: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments Finished Ch. 6

I'm noticing that Ariyoshi doesn't sweat the small stuff and makes major jumps suddenly. 3 years gone by in a few pages. A sweet relationship suddenly sour. These jumps are in many of her other works too.


message 14: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim | 152 comments Josh wrote: "I'm noticing that Ariyoshi doesn't sweat the small stuff and makes major jumps suddenly. 3 years gone by in a few pages. "

I felt this was more jarring in The River Ki where I had trouble keeping track of the time changes. This one at least felt a little more natural in that regard.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 156 comments I'm somewhere in chapter 4.
How weird is it to have a wedding without the presence of the groom? A first for me! ;)


Carol (carolfromnc) | 1227 comments Dioni (Bookie Mee) wrote: "I'm somewhere in chapter 4.
How weird is it to have a wedding without the presence of the groom? A first for me! ;)"


Very strange. And now that I'm in the middle of chapter VI, the scene where Umpei returns home and his sisters and parents all but drop-kick Kei to the side also is weird.

I am struggling with this novel, in that there's little compelling me forward, but I'm hoping to care more ... soon.


Stephen Rowland (interstate604) | 5 comments I should read this book again, but I have too much unread stuff around. I do think it's her best.


message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments I've stalled on this one for a few days, but will get back in tonight. But, my blog for Ariyoshi's River Ki might interest some.

https://ianjoshyateswriting.blogspot....


Nicki | 5 comments Probably not one I would have chosen for myself, but glad I got the chance to read it. Some of it was really uncomfortable reading with regards to the animal testing and then the lengths the two women were prepared to go to to compete for the doctor’s affections.


Dioni (Bookie Mee) (dioni) | 156 comments I just finished reading this. I get what you all mean by the 'jumps' and problem of keeping track of time. I had to make educated guesses on how old everyone was after every 'jump'. And even so there were still a couple of surprises, for example when Kae was pregnant the second/third time at around 40s, and how Otsugi was in her 70s even though she keeps referred to as looking young. How young can you look at 70 yo I wonder? ;)

I really enjoyed this book overall, apart from a couple of quibbles. The slight eroticism between Otsugi and Umpei was much too weird for me. And the feminist comments made by the sister at her deathbed felt too heavy handed. But the ending is amazing (especially the last sentence) and summarises the book and Ariyoshi's intent on writing this, in my opinion. I love how she picked such an unusual semi-historical figures/story, that I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise. I intend to read The Twilight Years next, when I get a chance.


message 21: by Rhea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) Yeah, the animal testing made me sad, though I know it's sort of essential. I found it amazing how much spite powered the book.


Agnetta | 285 comments In a just in time-fashion I started reading this yesterday and read the first 4 chapters. I am reading it in french translation.

I love how the story starts, the calmness and pose of the scenes and the haracters, I feel as if I really were there, observing the strict order of Kae's distinguished family house. Also enjoying to imagine the gossips of the servants and town people. So far it is captivating me. The author pictures everything so clearly, I could almost smell the incense and hear the kimonos rustle. Otsugi starts fascinating.. however can one trust that much perfection ? ... let's see what she hides ?


message 23: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Josh | 270 comments I'm mixing a lot of books right now, so behind, but still gonna conquer them all!!

P75. Part of me isn't being pulled in with the story, but I love the characters. ARIYOSHI does some interesting things with her jumps and passages of time, and I've seen some who don't like it, but overall I love her work, maybe because it is often so different from other dense epics.


message 24: by Rhea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rhea (rheashell) I don't think I commented on this at the time, but I did look at my notes for this, and I didn't like how it moved in time.

Personally, what I liked about the story* (which I didn't comment on at the time, because it was a book that stuck with me and I think I commented on it the day after I finished it. Not enough time) is how the characters work. I liked them at first, but then grew to dislike them, but the whole time I found them relatable, (which uh...grossed me out to some extent) which I think is most definitely key for the book. So I would ask how you feel about the characters once you finish.

*I realize reading that whole paragraph looks contradictory. It sort of is, but I do think being able to relate to characters, (view spoiler) is key to a book.


message 25: by Agnetta (last edited Feb 23, 2018 01:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Agnetta | 285 comments *** spoilers ****

I felt I could really relate to the figures, even if historically they are far away, The mother / mother in law situation is recognizable. I actually felt sorry for both main characters they were both creating so much pain for the other and for themselves, yet they could not avoid it. It was quite tragic, really. Such wasted opportunities to be happy. And then the doctor, completely oblivious to everything.
Still, in our own lives we may get stuck in similar situations and not realize how we ourselves contribute to them. While when we read it in a novel, we can see it clearly. I was indeed impressed by this novel and found it very interesting and "eye-opener". Real literature...relevant and beautiful.


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