Published by Counterpoint on April 2012 (first published 2001)
Genres: Japanese literature
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One night Tsukiko meets her former high school teacher.
Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase was our ‘readalong’ for January in Japan. Kawakami isn’t an author I had read or heard of before this event, so I was excited to get started. I have always been a bit more partial to modern Japanese literature compared to, especially, pre-WWII literature (which also has its charm, of course). Plus, The Briefcase was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and rightfully so in my opinion!
I enjoyed the pace of the book. The book starts out with seemingly random anecdotes of meeting Sensei, moving on to a more organised story, moving on to a full love story. What really fascinated me about this book is that we find out relatively little about the characters throughout the book. Even at the end you are still wondering about Tsukiko and Sensei (not to mention all the other characters). And you know what? It’s okay. What we do know is enough, and it makes the story all the more natural.
Another aspect I personally liked about the book is the culture aspect. It’s a bit silly maybe, but having spent a bit of time at izakaya (the Japanese style bars) myself and being a foodie, I enjoyed reading about the drinks and especially the dishes. I want to go out and eat it all. (I’m sure I’m not alone. Actually, reading fellow participants’ reviews, I know I’m not alone, haha) No, the food is not the main aspect of the book, but the bars are definitely one of the main settings.
There was one chapter in the book that felt out of place. I liked the idea of the chapter but the way it was written was so out of tune with the rest of the book that it got in the way a bit. From what I’ve read in other reviews, it reminds people of other books by Kawakami. Any thoughts on that? Anyway, I definitely plan to read more by Kawakami.