Well! We now have a full month of 2021 behind us. 2020 was a productive reading year for me, but it seems like I’m off to a bumpy start for this year–I’ve only read three books. For January, I continued my trek through Japanese fiction (yes I know there’s a January in Japan readathon, but for me this is all year). I took my journey back to some pre-and-post-WWII classics from Mishima Yukio and Dazai Osamu, and then did a complete 180 and read a thriller by Keigo Higashino.
Star by Yukio Mishima
In Star, readers watch a very self-absorbed film actor grow increasingly more self-absorbed and unhinged over the course of it’s few pages. I’ve read Mishima before, and this novella felt different than his ever-romantic The Sound of Waves or Spring Snow. If you like dives into the human psyche though, this is for you.
Mishima wrote this novella shortly after having acted in the film “Afraid to Die,” and it is hailed as “a rich and unflinching psychological portrait of a celebrity coming apart at the seams– begging the question: is there any escape from how we are seen by others?” (via Goodreads)
Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai
Dazai’s Schoolgirl. published 1939, exists contemporaneously with the start of WWII, and is exactly what you think it would be–a dive into the daily routine and thoughts of a young Japanese schoolgirl. This book was praised, and still is, for its inventive language in Japanese. It is also praised for its deep foray into its exploration of a nation and society on the cusp of a disappearing era. (Goodreads)
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
I don’t normally read crime thrillers, but I read Higashino’s Miracles of the Namiya General Store (not a crime thriller), and I ended up LOVING his writing. So, I decided to give “Suspect X” a try. It hooked me, and I plan on reading his other crime fiction.
There was so much to unpack, and it was very unique and fresh to what little crime fiction I’ve read before. You see the crime from the first couple chapters, and then watch a cat-and-mouse game of wits and intelligence to see if the detective–the upstanding figure of Japanese society–can catch the murderer. It was so tense and exciting.
Here’s the Goodreads summary, since I couldn’t adequately summarize it myself:
“Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.
When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet. (via Goodreads)
Overall, I’d say January was an okay reading month for me, but I feel like I can do more. I have a list for February that I will post soon, as I plan to continue reading my way across Japan.
What is on your TBR for this month? Let me know if the comments!