Heaven by Mieko Kawakami

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date:
10 June 2021
Length: 167 pages
Genre:
Literary Fiction | Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction

CW: suicide ideation, self harm, violence, assault, sexual assault

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Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters.

The young friends meet in secret in the hopes of avoiding any further attention and take solace in each other’s company, completely unaware that their relationship has not gone unnoticed by their bullies . . .

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Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date:
12/05/2020
Length: 430 pages
Genre:
Translated Fiction | Japanese Fiction | Contemporary Fiction

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

An earlier novella published in Japan with the same title focused on the female body, telling the story of three women: the thirty-year-old unmarried narrator, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter Midoriko. Unable to come to terms with her changed body after giving birth, Makiko becomes obsessed with the prospect of getting breast enhancement surgery. Meanwhile, her twelve-year-old daughter Midoriko is paralyzed by the fear of her oncoming puberty and finds herself unable to voice the vague, yet overwhelming anxieties associated with growing up. The narrator, who remains unnamed for most of the story, struggles with her own indeterminable identity of being neither a “daughter” nor a “mother.” Set over three stiflingly hot days in Tokyo, the book tells of a reunion of sorts, between two sisters, and the passage into womanhood of young Midoriko.

In this greatly expanded version, a second chapter in the story of the same women opens on another hot summer’s day ten years later. The narrator, single and childless, having reconciled herself with the idea of never marrying, nonetheless feels increasing anxiety about growing old alone and about never being a mother. In episodes that are as comical as they are revealing of deep yearning, she seeks direction from other women in her life—her mother, her grandmother, friends, as well as her sister—and only after dramatic and frequent changes of heart, decides in favor of artificial insemination. But this decision in a deeply conservative country in which women’s reproductive rights are under constant threat is not one that can be acted upon without great drama.

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Monthly Wrap Up – February 2021

By popular demand on Twitter, I started reading The Priory of the Orange Tree, which means I didn’t get round to reading much else when it came to my physical TBR! However, I did continue on my goal to get through my entire NetGalley shelf (which would be going a lot better, if I stopped requesting books even before I finish the one I’m reading!).

Books read this month

This month I read a total of 7 books (3 physical and 4 ebooks)

  1. My Brother by Karin Smirnoff (ARC)
  2. The Swimmers by Marian Womack (ARC)
  3. Little Gods by Meng Jin (ARC)
  4. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon 
  5. Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica 
  6. Dear Child by Romy Hausmann (ARC)
  7. Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Favourite books read this month

Little Gods by Meng Jin
This February release is a wonderful novel about identity and motherhood which I adored. Jin has a wonderful way of being able to craft realistic characters with a real depth, not just through the character’s perspective but through using the perspectives of other characters too. A perfect way to illustrate the layers of a single person and how easy it is to have many faces.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
This 800 page beast of a novel is an absolute delight to read and the perfect fantasy escape from the world. Shannon has created a new classic of the genre with a whole cast of very different characters and a world that has so much history and lore that it felt very, very real. Also this novel has dragons, need I say more?

Tender is the Flesh by Augstina Bazterrica
Bazterrica offers a whole new way of looking at dystopian fiction with this short, but brutal, novel. This deliciously dark and addictive read is definitely not one for the faint of heart, but if you have the stomach for a special kind of slaughterhouse then this is definitely not a novel that you want to sleep on!

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Kawakami presents a very interesting perspective on what it is like to be a woman in modern Japan. From the extremes that some women go to in order to meet their impossibly high expectations of beauty (I had no idea bleaching nipples was a thing until I read this book) to the perception of women without a family (a husband or child). It was such a refreshing, and eye-opening, read.

How did your February shape up? Did you make a good dent in your TBR or would you rather forget February happened?

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