Four stars, read in January 2016.
Chihiro is a young artist dealing with the recent death of her mother and the change in her relationship with her father, now that she no longer lives in the small town where she was raised. She meets Nakajima, who I can’t help thinking of as the Yoshimoto version of Haruki Murakami’s emotionally fragile female complements to the male protagonist. (I make the comparison only because Murakami’s books—which I love—make up the vast majority of the Japanese fiction I’ve read so far, and I’m excited to discover more authors whose work has a similar appeal for me.) The way their relationship fits into Chihiro’s endeavor to frame her adult life is lovely.
For how short this book is, the number of times I was stopped short by a sentence or phrase or paragraph is surprising. I just love the way Japanese works when it’s translated into English, and Yoshimoto is such a promising prospect for me. I liked Kitchen, but it wasn’t anything particularly notable. This book, though. I am going to remember it.
“It was an emotion that none of these people, struggling so hard to impose a shape on a life when life has no shape, could begin to understand.”
“That’s how I was. I felt close to people, but I didn’t have any friends I could really share my life with, our hearts melting together. Something always failed to communicate.”
“You never know you’re happy until later. Because physical sensations like smells and exhaustion don’t figure into our memories, I guess. Only the good bits bob up into view.”
“He was quiet in the way people are when they believe the world would get along just fine without them.”
“I felt how important the simplest things were, like feeling proud, finding something funny, stretching yourself, retreating into yourself.”
“Here we were, two ridiculously fragile people, sliding along on a very thin layer of ice all the time, each of us ready to slip and take the other down at any moment, the most unsteady of couples—and yet I believed what I had said. It would be all right. Going along like that, I felt like we were high above the clouds, shining.”