I picked this book up because it fit one of my reading challenge prompts (a book translated from an Asian language) and because the cover caught my eye. Never let anyone tell you that covers don’t matter. This was a fairly quick read and felt more like various vignettes than a novel but there was a uniqueness to the story that I enjoyed.
From Goodreads: Tsukiko is drinking alone in her local sake bar when by chance she meets one of her old high school teachers and, unable to remember his name, she falls back into her old habit of calling him ‘Sensei’. After this first encounter, Tsukiko and Sensei continue to meet. Together, they share edamame beans, bottles of cold beer, and a trip to the mountains to eat wild mushrooms. As their friendship deepens, Tsukiko comes to realise that the solace she has found with Sensei might be something more.
Things I Liked:
The writing was beautiful and sense of place was well done; there were times I felt as though I was sitting with Tsukiko and Sensei drinking sake and listening to baseball with them. While marketed as a romance, I felt this was more of a look at loneliness, and the way it can seep into us without us knowing. It was an intimate look at two people without being graphic or even very sexual. It was a great reminder that not all romances are epic, swooning stories and that sometimes they can be quiet, peaceful, stories about two people who find each other at the right time in their lives.
Things I didn’t Like:
I was begging for more character development throughout the story, especially Sensei. While I enjoyed exploring the development of the relationship between them, I found it hard to know how to feel in the end because we never learned a lot about them. I wanted to care more for them as individuals and people, even though I cared about their relationship together.
I found this book to be enjoyable in a way that quiet, intimate books are: not a lot happens but you still want to finish and see how the characters end up. This was a slice of life book and an intimate look at loneliness that shows love doesn’t have to always be romantic.
“In loneliness I have drifted this long way, alone. My torn and shabby robe could not keep out the cold. And tonight the sky was so clear it made my heart ache all the more.”
Author: Hiromi Kawakami
Published: August 1st, 2013
Rating: 3.5 Stars