It has been more than 2 months since my last book review… life certainly took over and opening an online shop also took time.
And of course with all that happening, my reading time slipped away. But on a recently short beach holiday i managed to finally finish the book i began 2 months ago.
This is the first book i’ve read by Andrew Miller and i picked it up because it was about the Japanese culture and also ties in with the Second World War. i dislike wars but have always wanted to know how the people back in the various countries saw the wars their country fought in, especially this one, which i have studied in my history books, in which i have been told the realities of the war was pretty much kept from the people of Japan during those years and even in the years after. Of course, the Japanese culture has also always fascinated me.
It starts out pretty slow and for a while i wondered if this would be one of the few books i would abandon reading. But the writing is lovely and flows so nicely, it’s like listening to a sweet elderly aunty tell you about her childhood, which i happen to like doing, so i kept reading.
The main character is Yuji Tanako, who lived such a privileged lifestyle, some would consider it a sin. He spent his day any way he liked, he lived on an allowance from his father, visited bath-houses and bars and enjoyed the company of his friends, especially those from his French club, organised by Monsieur Feneon’s. His one accomplishment was having published a book of poetry which sold 37 copies in total.
You know trouble is ahead when his father cuts his allowance, then talk of being called up for the army becomes common and his French club is threatened as “foreigners” are no longer welcomed. He then somewhat unwillingly (he says in the book, “She tricked him of course, that much is obvious.”) gets involved with Alissa, Monsieur Feneon’s daughter.
As his circumstances change, you witness the sluggish but sure change in Yuji. A change i thought would not happen when i read the first 100 or so pages. He realises what needs to be done and he steps up to it, even if fearfully at first. It is a slow, but certain coming of age, against the dramatic backdrop of a world war and an internal struggle of tradition and love (if you can call what he felt for Alissa love).
The end is bittersweet in some ways as he decides, finally, for himself, by himself, what needs to be done, for his future and the future of his loved ones.
i realised after finishing the book, that Miller’s writing style is so well-suited to showing the character and spirit of the Japanese culture, even the title reflects that quiet reflection which happens throughout the book.
If you are looking for a leisurely read, without over-dramatic tones and is a telling of a life-story in beautiful prose with great detail to culture, time and place, this is the book.