In hindsight this seems like a meandering tale that beautifully takes its own time, but while reading it, I was pulled along and I couldn’t put it down; I finished it in one sitting. It draws you in and, in the way of the best books, makes you understand something you find counter-intuitive. All the characters seem real, have little idiosyncrasies that make them come alive, and Kawakami manages this with ease where so many other authors strive for it, but their characters come across as contrived, like caricatures.
I’d recommend this if you’re a fan of Japanese literature, but equally I think it would make the perfect introduction; it has some of the oddness you often find in Japanese stories, but it’s done with a light touch so the reader never flounders or feels as though they are missing anything for lack of cultural knowledge.
A solid 5/5 for me and I am looking forward to reading the other works of Hiromi Kawakami.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this book. As with all of Kay’s writing, every sentence is a joy to read, somehow seems effortless and light, but, yet, because of the precision and eloquence, you can’t help but acknowledge it must’ve been created with great care. I think I first read this about 20 years ago and every time, I am impressed by how he’s managed to weave nuanced themes such as the struggle between self and cultural/religious identity into such a compelling narrative. It’s the kind of book you could give to anyone and they’d be able to enjoy it simply for an entertaining and moving tale, but also, if they were so inclined, for the quality and beauty of the writing and all that lays beneath.
Though it is something of alternate historical fiction with a touch of fantasy, it really is a book I have and continue to recommend to people who generally don’t read within these genres.
Interestingly, when I went to post this review this on Amazon.co.uk, I came across a very old review of mine. I’ll include it here so you can see, another decade on, my opinion still hasn’t changed:
8 July 2009
‘A great story, powerful, beautiful, and written with eloquence. I read it for the first time about ten years ago and it immediately became my favourite book. The story and characters stuck with me; I found myself thinking about modern situations and history in changed ways. I just finished a re-read – it stills resonates. I recommend it and Guy Gavriel Kay’s other works whole-heartedly.’
It’s such a treat to find a beautifully written and crafted fantasy book. I loved reading fantasy when I was growing up, but have found, as the years have gone by, that it’s become very difficult to find a book in the genre that appeals to the adult me. I tried this one after hearing about it on Twitter and I’m so glad I did – it’s entirely compelling and is written with subtlety and sophistication. So many fantasy books seem to be treated by their authors as a vehicle for conveying their world, this couldn’t be farther from the case here – this is a Story in its truest sense and is filled with complex characters that drew me in from the start (and then never let me go!)
Definitely keeping my eye out for Ilana C. Myer’s next book; if you haven’t tried this one yet, I recommend you do and would go as far as to say you don’t need to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy it
When we moved to Singapore, I revamped my website and changed hosts to Zenfolio. Less than a year later, here I am again changing. I’ve moved over to wordpress for the time being and, depending on how I get on with it, may stay for a longer term. As I’d paid for Zenfolio for the year, I’d been trying to stay with them, but I was unhappy with the way the site displayed my images and realised that mattered more to me than trying not to waste the year’s fee.
Over the years I’ve tried many sites and have found that most grant the user the ability to control what the site does to their images on upload or display; unfortunately, with Zenfolio this is not the case and to make matters worse, they seem to have an algorithm which applies an aggressive amount of compression and sharpening. After trying and failing to find a solution, I decided to search to see if other users were experiencing the same issue and found they were. Given that Zenfolio sells itself as a professional photography platform, this seems absurd and is, to me at least, unacceptable.
So here we are, another new home and look for mikomayer.com and just in time to share some new things with you. First up: a post on my new purchase, the beautiful Zeiss Batis 2/25 (!) and, after that, some images and thoughts on our recent trip to Japan.