Hardboiled/Hard Luck Paperback – 21 Jul 2005
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'Subtle, haunting ... Here are two affecting short stories from an author billed as Japan's leading female novelist.' -- Daily Mail
'Yoshimoto writes with absorbing lucidity ... The passing seasons are a recurrent metaphor for the transience of mourning and parting.' -- Guardian
About the Author
Banana Yoshimoto was born in 1964. She is the author of Kitchen, N.P., Lizard, Amrita, Asleep and Goodbye Tsugumi. Her acclaimed stories, novels and essays have won numerous prizes both in Japan and abroad. She lives in Tokyo.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book contains two novellas. The first one is about a woman who is out walking, checks in at a weird hotel and reminisces about her female friend and lover who died a year ago. The second one is about a woman and her relationship to her sister who is in coma. About the sadness and beauty that surrounds you when a close one dies.
Both stories have young female narratives and they are quite similar, living in the shadow of another woman whom they admire. At the same time they are trying to come to terms with their own identity and path in life. Lines like "when I see too many ordinary people, I start thinking that I'm strange, and that makes me uneasy" is typical of Yoshimoto's naïve, but totally believable style.
Another favourite passage is:
"The loneliness of passing time. The loneliness of the fork in the road.
`I wonder why we feel so lonely? It's odd, isn't it?'
We kept repeating such phrases, as if it were someone else's problem."
Loss is a topic in many of Yoshimoto's stories. The reason I don't give this book 5 stars is that I know that she could've written with even more pain and beauty. In the second story I would've expected a bit more from the ending.
“Hardboiled” is the more straightforward of the two, albeit full of omens, dreams and ghosts from the past, sketching a woman’s hike in the mountains and her eventful overnight stay in a small town hotel. Late in the tale she realizes she has forgotten the anniversary of the death of her friend/lover Shizuru. Full of cross references and symbolism and an example of how much closer Japanese feel to living in a fleeting world with multiple gods and ancestral spirits, where time can slow down, stop or surge ahead. Like Murakami’s “After Midnight”, this story covers less than 24 hours.
Whilst Shizuru’s death came suddenly and its long-term impact on her friend is hard to grasp for readers, “Hard Luck” is a study of the predicted and real death and bereavement of female narrator’s sister Kuni, for months on life support after a brain hemorrhage. The reader is taken on an emotional tour of the narrator’s memories of her sister, the response from Kuni’s fiancé and his older brother Sakai, her former work colleagues, her parents… It ends on a slightly higher note than “Hardboiled”. Needs to be read more than once to fully appreciate it.
My only complaint would be that it didn't last long enough!