In an attempt to meet new people and read books, I have started to attend some book clubs. I read this book for one. The synopsis interested me right away. I had not heard of this author who is relatively well known in Japan.
This novel from the beginning is beautifully written. Nature in particular is rendered poetically. It sometimes feels quiet but movingly so. The first third or half of the novel is slower than the last half. Death and omens of death do feature throughout the novel.
The beginning of the novel and the subject matter of old world aristocracy reminded me of The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa which is also nostalgic and beautifully written peace about the past. While this novel was written in the 1960s and set in 1912, it does not look at the past nostalgically in a pleasant way so much as showing the various characters of different socio-economic situations and the changing landscape.
The narration is third present omniscient and does give perspective on many of the characters. The women are less developed than male characters which I’ve found is typical of Japanese novels. However, Satoko is rendered well and I can see her agency and development clearly.
The central character is often not likeable, but he did become oddly compelling in some way. Of course, Honda is more likeable and relatable. His relationship with the protagonist Kiyo is the best in the novel. Honda is the central figure in this tetralogy.
Even with some strange elements and slowness, I really liked how this book was written. I think I will read the second book and see how far I get from there. The books are too heavy to be read one after he other though.
Read on Kindle February 10-13 2020.