A review by now_booking
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

challenging reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I found this to be a weird sort of other-worldly, meandering novel. I picked it up because a reading challenge I’m participating in demanded a romance novel in translation. Admittedly this can be said to be a sort of romance novel in that romantic love, unrequited romantic love is sort of the main theme of this book. However as a fan of romance novels and a stickler for what I consider the genre rules are, I would say this is more the awkward love story between an awkward Japanese 30-something and her former Japanese teacher who’s about 40 years her senior. Even beyond love, this is a story of intergenerational friendship and kindred lonely spirits finding one another and building an odd relationship.

I started out really liking it for that quiet, understated, observational literary style I’ve come to love in Japanese novels. It was expectedly slow-moving, but I loved the relationship slowly building between Tsukiko and her Sensei. But then somewhere around the halfway mark, this just kind of stagnated and became perhaps a little too abstract and too… meandering for me. A large portion of this had no movement. Characters were introduced like Tsukiko’s old schoolmate with the crush on her for no real purpose and with no real direction. Timelines of what happened when and where were completely blown. Tsukiko’s heavy alcohol use meant that it was always doubtful what was said and what was real and what was imagined and she kind of seemed juvenile for her age. And yet, I did like her as a character overall. The resolution was beautiful but extremely abrupt and out of nowhere and brief and jarring. And I think the book kind of was a little to ponderous for the abruptness of the ending. It almost felt like the author got a little bored and wanted to end things. Overall, I didn’t dislike this, but it’s also not my favourite. I liked the first half, but for my taste, not enough existed to fulfill that potential in the second half. I’m glad I pushed through for the couple of pages of payoff but I wouldn’t read this again.

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