'[Yuji] is a character so well realised as to engage all of our sympathies' (Peter Carty, Independent
'A revelatory perspective on an Eastern city in the second world war . . .The prose is as delicate as a Japanese print' (David Grylls, Sunday Times
'Not only does he combine delicious literary conceits with thought-provoking explorations into the human condition, he has the rare gift of tossing out perfect sentences that make you stop in your tracks' (Claire Allfree, Metro
'Miller's delicate prose most closely recalls the tone of emotional restraint in Kazuo Ishiguro's early novels . . . Crisply defined characters offer a foil to Yuji's progressive ruminations, which Miller deftly coheres into a typically bittersweet resolution.' (James Urquhart, Independent on Sunday
'The frank simplicity of Miller's prose, and his search for truth in the reality of the quotidian feels (to this Western reader) convincingly Japanese. Miller places his words and plot developments carefully, like the smooth grey pebbles of a Zen garden, with all but the most essential adjectives weathered away. There are moments of beauty, truth and irony.' (Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph
'Deeply moving, written with loving attention to language, it felt like Pasternak back from the dead.' (Tom Adair, Scotsman
'Detail by delicate detail Miller conjures Yuji's dim, mysterious world of gradual dissolution." (Natalie Sandison, The Times
'Miller's Japanese characters are densely believable, and his recreation of their world is a real achievement' (Christopher Tayler, Guardian
'Miller's writing is cinematic; it has a heightened visual sense and it shifts smoothly from dialogue to mood to location. At all times the author is in command' (TLS
'A quite beautifully written coming-of-age novel with a completely convincing Japanese hero and a precisely, lovingly rendered evocation of imperial Japan' (Harry Ritchie, Daily Mail
From the Author
I have long had some curious affinity with Japan. I cannot remember exactly when it started, or how. Was it when, as a young schoolboy, I clambered into the hands of a giant bronze Buddha in the grounds of a London museum? However it began, I became a haphazard Japanophile, and in 1994 I went to live there, finding it as rich in contradictions as anywhere else on the map. My home was on the edge of that sprawling megalopolis that is modern Tokyo, a frustrating, exhilarating city, its style a kind of Blade Runner Gothic. It is, I think, a very different place to the 1940 Tokyo Yuji Takano uneasily inhabits in One Morning Like a Bird. American bombers and Japanese town planners have done their work with great thoroughness. Even the broad and sometimes treacherous Sumida river, a place celebrated in countless poems and stories, is all but buried under concrete now.
Writing the novel, I sought to recreate pre-1945 Tokyo from books and photographs and films. There were moments when I was struck by the sheer oddness and difficulty of what I was doing. Not only was the story set in Japan but the action is seen exclusively from a Japanese perspective. I remembered, however, a similar unease when writing Ingenious Pain, and facing the problem of entering the experience of a man living in the mid-eighteenth century. Was Yuji's world more foreign to me than that? It might conceivably be less so. And what is more fundamental to the practice of fiction than the belief that all of us share some common material, something that remains impervious to cultural difference, or to differences of gender and age? Writing is a tool of curiosity. I wanted to find out how it felt to be Yuji Takano. I wanted to live as a young Japanese poet. I wanted to be twenty-five again!
I started the book in the months before my daughter's birth. Pregnancy, birth, babyhood, parenthood, all quickly assumed an importance I had not entirely planned for. Children toddled or crawled or skipped into the manuscript as though the text's surface was full of half-open doors. Yuji, self-regarding, and imagining himself to be some sort of Asian Arthur Rimbaud, is totally unprepared for them. I thoroughly enjoyed his discomfort; it was, of course, the mirror to my own.
It is January 2008 as I write this, and wet as a Japanese June. My daughter and the novel have passed their third birthdays. The child is pretty much perfect, the novel very much not so. I encourage myself with the thought that imperfection, like asymmetry, is part of the Japanese aesthetic, though who that will convince, Heaven knows. It is time, however, to get onto my creaking knees, and with much formality, and a deep bow, to slide the book across the mats towards whoever that is sitting there so patiently in the shadows...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.