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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 June 2014
An early novel by the talented Yukio Mishima, 'Thirst for Love' focuses on Etsuko, a beautiful widow who, after the death from typhoid of her unfaithful husband, moves from Tokyo to her father-in-law's house in the country. Etsuko's ageing widower father-in-law, Yakichi, is a pompous landowner who has risen from his farming roots, and who soon makes her aware that he is physically attracted to her. However, although Etsuko does not find him remotely attractive, she succumbs to Yakichi's attentions and becomes his mistress, which causes a certain amount of resentment among the rest of the family. Living in the family home is her brother-in-law, her two sisters-in-law, Miyo the maid, and Saburo, a young, strong and handsome gardener. Against her better judgement, Etsuko finds herself becoming obsessed with Saburo, comparing his young, sinuous body to the wrinkled, sagging flesh of her father-in-law, and before long Yakichi notices Etsuko's inappropriate feelings for the gardener, but he is unsure exactly how to best deal with the situation. And then Etsuko discovers something about Saburo that arouses her jealousy and provokes her into an action that has tragic consequences for all involved.

An exploration of passion, obsession and jealousy, Yukio Mishima's story of complex emotions makes this novel a rather intense read, but I have to say that I did not become quite as involved in this story as I have with other novels I have read from this author. It is very well-written, there are some good descriptions of Japanese family life, and considering the author was only in his twenties when this book was written, there are some perceptive observations of sexual jealousy and of the desire to inflict pain in pursuit of revenge; however, I somehow did not find myself becoming as swept up in the story, or as involved with the characters or as convinced by their situations as I would have expected. That said, this is still an interesting and very readable novel - just not, I feel, one of Mishima's best.
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on 18 January 2017
Finished the yesterday. An absolutely astounding piece of work. I think I would have to consider this one of the finest novels I have read. I didn't think, as others have mentioned, that it was either slow paced or overly descriptive. In fact, I was quite surprised at the pace, as I have previously found Japanese fiction can move at a painfully slow tempo. Very well-written with a lot of astute observations of the relationships between men and women, lust and love, city and country. Would thoroughly recommend to any serious reader.
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on 10 January 2014
This book in my opinion stands shoulder to shoulder with the rest of Mishima's work. If desire itself is taken as the main character, it works magnificently. The book is an excoriating study of the insatiability of desire. Mishima dissects our 'thirst for love' through his characters experience of; exploitation, abandonment, sublimation, avoidance, humiliation, infidelity as well as Etsuko's dark response.

Etsuko, a widowed and cheated on middle aged woman, has had her desire frustrated by circumstances throughout her life. Mishima charts her attempts to negotiate an actual unfulfilling love and an imagined seemingly unobtainable one. This book is the antithesis of The Sound Of Waves and forms a shocking contrast to it. Yet Mishima writes with such genius evoking humans feelings and manipulations with searing honesty. His description of the minutia of desire is remarkable.

He gives us no truly sympathetic or unsympathetic characters - even the object of Etsuko's desire, the 'innocent' Saburo could be seen as thoughtless. The narrative's compelling force comes from the dragging into the light the shadowy feelings and actions we all know and would probably rather forget. For that reason many may find this book a painful experience. For me though the brave light it shines in the dark corners of the human psyche is worth it.
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on 24 January 2011
Published in 1950 Thirst for Love was one of Mishima's early novels and written shortly after his Confessions of a Mask which had already gained him celebrated public acclaim. The novel is set on a ten acre property on the outskirts of Osaka owned by Yakichi, a retired businessman and widower in his sixties but wishing to return to traditional life living off the land. With Yakichi is his indolent intellectual son Kensuke and his wife Cheiko, daughter-in-law Asako (whose husband is in Siberia) 8 year old daughter Nobuko and 5 year old son Natsuo, and the recently widowed third daughter-in-law Etsuko. The household is completed by a young peasant maid Miyo and 18 year old gardener, Saburo. Mishima focuses on the relationships between the above especially Etsuko whose husband had been a very unfaithful philanderer and now Etsuko has become the mistress of her father-in-law, Yakichi. Her passionate obsession is for the young tanned and good looking gardener, Saburo. Saburo is a naïve innocent young man who is having a physical relationship with Miyo and unaware of Etsuko's obsession and jealousy. Mishima's contrasts the relationships in the household: the intellectual cynical detached relationship of Kensuke and Chieko and the physical but loveless relationship between Miyo and Saburo. The mix of love, sex, death, obsession, jealousy is central to a number of Mishima's works and Thirst for Love lacks appeal largely for the very detached manner the characters interact. Mishima's writing I enjoy and I have loved several of his other novels Confessions of a Mask, Spring Snow and Forbidden Colours but Thirst for Love is not as good. There are moments of brilliance such as the detailed account of a Festival with a Lion, green mane streaming and the frenzied activity of the half naked young men following behind. The ending was difficult to comprehend especially the physical tidying up by Yakichi and Etsuko, all rather odd to me. Thirst for Love is an appropriate title for there is no love in this book and to satisfy thirst I would suggest reading another of Mishima's novels.
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on 1 August 2016
As always with Mishima, you are talking about a genius of such heightened sensibilities and insight you can forgive the unevenness or longueurs in certain passages or chunks of his output, even the sense of melodrama. I wish certain reviewers would confine themselves to commenting on a book and not spoiling it for others by outlining the whole story. At least head your review "SPOILER" so we can pass it over.
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on 7 April 2016
Very heavily written and sometimes a struggle to digest, but enjoyable for both fans of the romance genre and those who pick it up on a whim.
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on 16 October 2015
In many ways, typical of Japanese literature, slow moving, restrained emotion, yet I liked it on it's level.
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on 24 August 2016
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