Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami
Published by Atlas Contact on 2012 (first published: 2006)
Genres: Contemporary, Japanese literature
Twelve years have passed since Kei's husband, Rei, disappeared and she was left alone with her three-year-old daughter. Then she begins making repeated trips to the seaside town of Manazuru.
Two years ago for January in Japan we already read The Briefcase (also known as Strange Weather in Tokyo) by Hiromi Kawakami. I really enjoyed that book! So I was hopeful I’d feel the same about Manazuru… Alas.
I just did not care about anything in this book. The story was one that doesn’t really interest me in the first place, to be quite honest – a husband who disappears one day, a mother left behind with her child, trying to figure out the reason her husband left – but if done well it will even touch my cold cold heart. No, I am just kidding about that cold heart; while I am not the most sensitive person, it’s not difficult for me to relate to or at least feel sympathy for characters in books. So imagine how bland this book was to me, that I just didn’t care at all about the story. And that while it has at least some aspects that could be so interesting if done well: spirituality, perhaps even a supernaturalness? They played an important role in the story, but somehow they still felt almost meaningless.
But not just the story was bland. The characters felt exactly the same to me. They didn’t do anything that interested me, they didn’t say anything that interested me. They didn’t relate to other characters in a way that interested me. I just did. not. care. If anything, the daughter was perhaps my favourite character but she does not appear often enough to… uhm… make me care? I did not even feel at all curious about the location, Manazuru, that the book was named after.
And that was the downfall of this novel for me. I didn’t care. When I don’t connect to anything in a book, I get bored. And that’s just about the worst for me. Manazuru was a quick read, but even so I felt relieved when I ‘finally’ finished it.
I always seem extra harsh about books I don’t like, don’t I? This book wasn’t absolutely terrible, it just wasn’t for me. I’m sure there are people out there who will feel more connected to the story and its characters. Anyway, I rated this 3 stars on Goodreads but reviewing how I feel about this book, I must admit I can’t give it any more than 2.5 stars. Just based on personal feeling.
I do not think we should compare Manazuru to The Briefcase. The only thing they seem to share is that they describe events in daily life, but that’s where the comparison ends for me. Take this from me: You will enjoy The Briefcase. And then, if you read Manazuru, you will enjoy The Briefcase even more 😉