This next book is one that I borrowed from my housemate (instead of doing what I should have done and reading one of the books on my ever-growing TBR pile). The other week, we were in Waterstones looking at all the books (as you do), and she commented on the fact that she only seems to go for books with blue covers and that she fancied a change. Cue this next book:
Genre:Short story, Japanese literature
One-sentence summary:Three short stories set in Japan in which two girls learn to cope with losing someone they love, and helping others who have also lost loved ones.
I basically didn't have a clue what to expect from this book, and only decided to read it on a whim because I had a train journey ahead of me and it looked really short! It took me a few pages to get into the writing style (it's translated from Japanese and the style can be quite abrupt) but when I did I found the story really engaging. The characters are not completely developed as the stories are pretty short, but they each have their own quirks and display their own unique humanness, especially when dealing with grief.
I am quite strongly affected by sadness and despair in books and need to pace myself and spread them out to avoid getting too depressed. So I think if I'd known what this book was about before reading it I probably would've thought twice about picking it up. But now that I've read it I'm totally glad I gave it a chance. This book is sad but in a cathartic and hopeful way. The grief feels very raw and is not smoothed over with false optimism, but it still has a strong sense of hope.
I think the story that I found the hardest was the second one, as it deals not only with personal grief but with trying to help someone else through their grief. This comes across as being even more difficult for the narrator because not only is she suffering, but she also has to watch someone she cares about suffer without being able to do anything about it. But even this story has a distinct upswing of hope.
Food is an important aspect in all of these stories. I wouldn't exactly call it a theme, but it provides a thread of consistency to the stories, almost as an antidote to the grief. It's something quite mundane, but which is important to the two narrators; I think for them it is something that connects them to life and to a world from which they sometimes feel really detached. I guess that fits in pretty perfectly with the title, Kitchen.
This book really surprised me, in a good way! I didn't know what to expect, but I ended up really liking the stories and really enjoying learning about the characters. There were a couple of bizarre, magical-realism-esque moments which I found a bit confusing... But in general I found these stories really interesting and engaging, and they were quite different to anything I'd read before! I would definitely recommend these!
Have you read Kitchen? If so, what did you think of it? Do you agree with my review? Do you have any other recommendations for Japanese books? Let me know in the comments.