Firstly, huge thank you to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for providing me with an eBook and a print copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 26/11/2020
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction | Contemporary Fiction
A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking.GoodReads
She is sent to a nondescript office building where she is tasked with watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods. But observing someone for hours on end can be so inconvenient and tiresome. How will she stay awake? When can she take delivery of her favourite brand of tea? And, perhaps more importantly – how did she find herself in this situation in the first place?
As she moves from job to job, writing bus adverts for shops that mysteriously disappear, and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers that generate thousands of devoted followers, it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful…
As soon as I saw this novel pop up on my Twitter I knew I just had to read it, whether it be an ARC or a bought copy I just had to have it. Not only does it help me on my quest to read as many Japanese novels as possible, but it also covers the subject of work burnout which is something that hits close to home for me.
The entire novel is from the perspective of our mysterious unnamed protagonist. I didn’t notice for a while that she didn’t even have a name as I was just so absorbed in her narrative that I just didn’t realise. Looking back I really like the decision not to give much of a name or background to the character as it easily allows the reader to slot themselves into her life. I mean, how many of us have wished for an easy, no stress, job? At first you may think of the protagonist for being a little childish in her request but as the novel progresses, you begin to understand where she is coming from and witness how easily she finds herself giving her all to a job, even if it is temporary. As the novel features several different locations, we also meet a whole cast of interesting characters which made each job even more unique and, in some cases, mysterious.
I really liked how the novel was split into parts and how each part focused on a different job, despite each part having a separate focus the novel didn’t feel disjointed in any way. I enjoyed how each job was seemingly random and some being jobs that I would have never have thought of before. Some of the jobs even had elements of magic realism or mystery to it, some I could figure out or theorise and some that left me wishing that we were provided with answers. However, I understand that this is entirely dependent on the reader and some people will love the lack of explanation offered in some parts. As the novel progresses we learn a little more about the protagonist and I loved how it wasn’t until the end of the novel where we get the answer to a question that I was asking throughout the book!
As you can tell I really enjoyed this book and thought it was great! It effortlessly captures how disillusioned you can get with work regardless of the job and how something that you may enjoy at first can quickly become a source of stress, and even paranoia. I love Tsumura’s writing style and thought the translation from Polly Barton still captured Tsumura’s unique voice and I would love for more of her work to be translated into English in the future.