emotional mysterious reflective sad fast-paced
- Plot- or character-driven? Character
- Strong character development? No
- Loveable characters? It's complicated
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? No
The book starts with an introduction of the protagonist’s sensei (a respectful term for a person’s teacher) who taught her Japanese in school. Having never paid attention to Japanese class, she doesn’t remember her teacher’s name however the teacher does remember her name. Tsukiko Omachi. They meet (unplanned) each other at a bar and end up eating & drinking together as slowly, their relationship grows from faint acquaintance to companionship, friendship and blossoms into love (still they hardly ever plan to meet at the bar).
The story is nicely written, and very practical, be it with Matsumoto’s (sensei’s) sexist remarks, his sentimentalism, love for haiku, his love-hate for his ex wife, his irritation, Omachi’s mental issues, her struggles with relationships, her irk for being called ‘girly’, her clumsiness and lonely independence. Even the side characters, with as much as we get their story, are practically written. No character is eulogised or lacks the commonly present evils of Japanese society even if it gets irritating for the readers at times.
Small things and gestures are what makes this book beautiful. Apart from that, sensei and omachi’s loneliness has a distant beauty to it (sort of the aesthetics I search for on tumblr to feel better about my loneliness). Japanese writers usually intertwine state of mind and nature beautifully as does this book, be it in Omachi’s musings, parties thrown to watch cherry blossoms and when Matsumoto (later joined by Omachi) wrote haiku.
Some places are funny, some are excruciatingly tender, some are lonely and some are irritating, but nothing seems overdramatic. I’ve read people calling Omachi dumb, childish and spoiled which led me to realise that perhaps non Asians do not understand the mental issues caused by reasons most cannot trace the reason back to which is a common thing for Koreans, Japanese, Indians and Persians (at the very least), thus found heavily written in many books. So if you’re not a fan of unexplained loneliness, lacklustre everydays, profound and powerful emotional connection with friends, lovers and nature and societal stereotypes presnted without admonition, this book would be utter trash and a waste of time for you. For me, however, it was a beautiful experience reading it. At one point it reminded me Banana Yoshimoto’s Moonlight Shadow in Kitchen (one of the best books I’ve read till date). That part was slightly confusing and surreal but nicely written.
As much as I found the book nice & beautiful, I’m confused as to what to take away from the book. Perhaps the book was meant to serve as a friend of lonely souls, and that’s what makes me appreciate the book a lot. Partly practical, partly whimsical, this book is a story of a tender person living their life, and on the way, falling in love with a tender person despite their age difference.
(The book was too short to really explore any of the characters deeply. The book could’ve been longer, deeper and better, in my opinion.)
Moderate: Misogyny and Sexism