4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Subtle, Poignant and Charming,
This review is from: The Briefcase (Paperback)
Please note: This novel has been republished as: Strange Weather in Tokyo
Tsukiko, an attractive, young-minded woman in her late thirties, meets an old school teacher of hers, at her local sake bar. She is unable to remember his name, so she calls him 'Sensei' (which, I believe, means 'teacher' in Japanese) and she continues to call him by this name throughout her story. Gradually over a period of weeks and months, Tsukiko and Sensei form a friendship, which slowly develops as they spend their evenings eating and drinking and their days shopping in the local markets. They also join the owner of the sake bar, Satoru, and his cousin, Toru, on an outing to the mountains to collect wild mushrooms, and they even manage to get away for a weekend to visit a spa hotel on an island, where they almost come close to a romantic encounter. Tsukiko and Sensei are essentially solitary people, but they are people who do not really want to be totally alone, and Tsukiko, finding that she is only really happy when she is with Sensei, realizes she is falling in love with her old teacher - but he is so correct in his behaviour towards her that she is finding it difficult to gauge how he really feels about her. And then there is Sensei's ex-wife, an unusual and intriguing woman, who left him years ago - but what happened to her and how does Sensei really feel about her now?
First-person narrated by Tsukiko, and written in spare, simple, uncluttered prose, this short novel shares with the reader the relationship that builds between Sensei and Tsukiko, and is a beautiful, poignant and charming story which is almost dream-like in places. This subtle and delicate novel may not suit if you prefer a fast-paced, plot-driven narrative, but I read this novel in one sitting and was totally drawn into Tsukiko's story of love, loneliness and longing and enjoyed it from start to finish. Hiromi Kawakami is one of the most popular and respected writers of fiction in Japan and is also known as a literary critic and essayist, and reading this very attractively presented and deftly written novel has made me interested in looking at the author's previous book: Manazuru.