Recent reads # 17: GOODBYE JAPAN!


Amrita – Banana Yashimoto

Okay: I’m now done with Japanese novels, at least for the time being.  I’m all Japanned out.  I bought this book on the Book Lounge 40% off-sale, and was peeved to discover that the book was second hand – & if not second hand, then very very old stock,  because the pages have browned, the way that old books do.  I have a feeling that this novel was the personal possession of someone on the store staff.  Or something.  Anyway: not one of my better buys. Which serves me right, because bought it on a 100% whim, based on the writer’s crazy name; also I was also curious to read another Japanese novel, after two from Haruki Murakami.  And having read Banana, I now realise just how good Murakami is.  Also the translation on the Amrita novel was not so great.  I had the impression of a very limited vocabulary – whether this was a fault of the writer or the translator, I couldn’t say.

I had to work really hard to force myself to finish the book – it was a struggle.  Partly because the plot (what plot?) wasn’t very interesting, or at least, wasn’t presented in a way that engaged my interest or made me identify with the characters.  We’re in Tokyo, modern Japan, looking at  an unusual family, Mother, daughter Sakumi the narrator, her step-brother Yoshisho, her cousin Makiko and a  lady friend of the mother, called Junko who decided to live with them. Sakumi falls down some stairs, has brain surgery and returns home, but without her memory; the brother has psychic powers and is moody & withdrawn; Sakumi takes up with Ryu-kan who is the former  lover of her sister Maki who committed suicide; now that I summarise the book it looks quite interesting, but it was presented in such a manner that it wasn’t! Nothing much happens, but we hear a lot about Sakumi’s dreams, and the spirit world (i.e. ghosts) the whole thing reminded me of a self-absorbed teenaged girl’s journal that endlessly describes her FEELINGS, dreams, fantasies. But no details whatsoever about her sexual encounters, although  we do know she’s sleeping with Ryu-kan,  and there’s a sub-plot about her friend Eriko who’s a married man’s mistress and gets stabbed by his aggravated wife – but even this crime doesn’t come across as remarkable

The blurb said “novel is the voice of young Japan”. Well, judging by this novel,  young Japan is not very interesting. The characters all seem to drink a lot, and be fond of staying up all night, wafting around. Quite often we get to hear what they eat – Murakami’s novels  are also very explicit re the menus.

And why it was titled Amrita I’m not sure, although near the end Sakumi has an experience of Amrita, the divine nectar (this is a reference from Hindu mythology {??}  which has not been a feature thus far).

The novel left me stone cold and I can only hope it read better in the original Japanese.  I certainly won’t be trying any more of her books.


Filed under BOOK REVIEWS

3 responses to “Recent reads # 17: GOODBYE JAPAN!

  1. Vella

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  2. Pingback: Book Review | ‘Almost Transparent Blue’ by Ryu Murakami « Wordly Obsessions

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