This is the second book I have read by this leading Japanese author. After recently reading her wonderful book “The Housekeeper and the Professor” I started looking for her other translated works.
This is a collection of 3 novellas, all marked by her simple elegant prose. My favourite was the title story, about a teenage girl whose religious parents run a home (the ‘Light House’) for orphans and abandoned children. She feels out of sync with her family and her home. “Sometimes, as I approach, the Light House appears fixed and acute, while I, by contrast, feel vague and dim. At other times, I feel almost painfully clear and sharp, while the Light House is hazy. Either way, there is always something irreconcilable between the house and me, something I can never get past.” She has a crush on one of the teenage boys in her home with whom she has grown up. “I was the only one who had seen the expressions on his face at these moments, and I kept those images locked away like a bundle of precious letters.” He is a diver, and she loves to watch him from the corners and shadows. She feels closest to him, there at the pool. She is lonely and alienated from her family. She describes her voluble mother: “Particularly talkative during dinner, she was not one to cast about for topics that would include everyone, preferring to talk about herself and her interests from the moment we sat down until the meal was over. As she would grow increasingly excited and out of breath, I often wondered whether she in fact hated herself for talking so much. … Her lips were like two maggots that never stopped wriggling, and I found myself wanting to squash them between my fingers.” The reader starts to feel sympathy for her, but then is brought up short by sprays of thin strands of cruelty. Ogawa keeps gently pushing the reader along with her descriptions that make you stop and look again. “…along the way the knot of people who left the station with me unravels and fades away with the sunlight.” and “Sunlight covered the ground like a shower of gold dust.”
In “The Pregnancy Diary” the descriptions of the emotions, the morning sickness, and cravings of pregnancy were deftly drawn and twisted a bit, the result slightly oddly funny, or funnily odd, and even a bit touching.
I initially thought this collection was about a 3 to 3 ½, but in re-reading parts of them, and thinking again about them, trying to puzzle them out (because they are all a bit odd and sometimes a tad creepy), I find her writing is definitely growing on me, and I’d give it a 4. I’m on the lookout for another one by her.