2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A haunting and tragic 'state of the nation' novel,
This review is from: The Silent Cry (Serpent's Tail Classics) (Paperback)
This is not an easy book, and I felt it dragged at times, but I'd still give it a positive review because it really struck a chord and I find myself still thinking about it over a year after reading it.
The story is of two brothers returning to their childhood home, and tracks their two different characters and how one ultimately causes a strange and somewhat futile uprising in the nearby village, which ends tragically. There is a very significant subplot - mostly revealed through the narrator's reminiscences - about the history of the village and the family during the Second World War (which finished only about 20 years before the events of the book) and earlier in the 1860s, which chimes with the themes of the contemporary narrative. It's quite a murky and confusing tale - all is only really revealed at the very end, and even then I wouldn't say the reader comes away with any wholly satisfactory answers.
The themes which come through strongly are family identity, personal responsibility, and a sort of confusion and sense of hopelessness at the state of Japanese culture and society in the sixties. The narrator is by far the more conservative of the two brothers, and epitomises this embarrassed, awkward sort of frustration in much of his life, without ever rebelling like his younger brother does.
It is often considered Oe's greatest work. I have read some of his other novels, and I would agree that despite finding it frustrating, it is a unique work. I really felt it got under my skin as a story. Oe is great at depicting men experiencing complex and perhaps un-reconcileably contradictory emotions. His novels often focus on the man faced with a cruel predicament he struggles to resolve, and perhaps never will. I know that doesn't make this book sound like much fun, but it is a really impressive novel, and well worth the effort.