Top critical review
Made me laugh
on 11 October 2017
Intertextuality is so important to appreciate the best writers, all of whom are/were massive readers. Austen is the perfect example: if you have no knowledge of the books Austen read you will understand essentially about 20% of what her novels are about.
I say this because I was quite amused when I read this book: I'm not an expert on Japanese literature, but I've read a number of 20th Japanese novels, things like "The Master of Go". To me this book reads very much like a translation of a 20th C Japanese novel, or even a pastiche, given that the young man who wrote it had grown up in England. So often it appears that Japanese literature is about painting "delicate colours", and "suggesting", in what you might call a "Symbolist" manner. Even the title of this book seems to allude to this.
SPOILER ALERT: the book has no real "punchline". And I was glad about that: it confirms the "Japanese pastiche" suspicion, and Hollywood blockbusters should not be forgiven for creating this imperious thirst for "punchlines" in everything. Various tensions seem to be "significant" in the book, particularly centring on the character Sachiko, and its depiction of post-War Japanese sociological realities is convincing. But the tensions are neither resolved nor lead to cataclysmic consequences, and I was glad about that too, and it also made me smile.
Because this book is NOT actually a translation from Japanese I regard it as rather humorous. I doubt whether it's intended to be so, but I suppose I respond how I respond.
I can however recommend it: it's a pleasant, not illiterate read, it makes you want to turn the pages, which is a sign of a writer's ability to coax your interest in the characters, and the author has a sober but expressive control of language. In fact it's a bit of a tease: the author is sort of playing with your expectations: will this turn out to be a Western-style novel, where the tensions are resolved, or something altogether alien (to a typical Westerner) and puzzling? About 20 pages from the end I realised "suggestion" was the order of the day, and this actually made me laugh.