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'The Generally Sweet Smell of Youth'
on 14 April 2010
This book is in essence a beautiful reflection on living through your early 20's in new surroundings experiencing things for the first time. Sanshiro, a naive recent college graduate from rural Japan, has just enrolled at Tokyo University and the story begins with him travelling by train to Tokyo, where he will learn how the world can be so different compared to his sleepy country home.
A twist on the classic coming of age novel this book reminded me of Murakami's Norwegian Wood with it's easy references to first love and stream of consciousness narrative style. Indeed the introduction written by Murakami would indicate that he did in fact borrow from Sanshiro when dreaming up his own novel.
The Japanese writing style is prominent in this novel, an easy going plot, interactions on a personally emotional level for the main characters and realisation of the beauty of simple everyday things. The events that transpire can seem a little dated to western culture but the underlying motives still hold true today even though the book was written in the early 20th century.
If you liked Norwegian Wood or A Catcher in the Rye, Sanshiro won't let you down.