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After listening to several of Haruki Murakami's books on Audible (Kafka on the Shore; Dance Dance Dance; What I Write About When I Write about Running), I wanted to try some other Japanese authors. Kawabata is a more "traditional" 20th century Japanese writer, but I knew very little about his work before listening to this book.
What a beautiful, well-crafted story! The main character, Oki, is a novelist in his 50s who, in the first chapters of the book, visits his former lover, Otoko, on a business trip to Kyoto. Oki memorialized their love affair in his book, A Girl of Sixteen, but Otoko is now 40 and is a successful painter. She lives with her protegee and lover, Keiko, a young, beguiling woman who manages to seduce both Otoko and his son in her quest to gain "revenge" for Oki's leaving Otoko 20 years previously. The tale, as anticipated, ends tragically, but from beginning to end the author writes marvelously about love, hate, desire, jealousy-- and Japan. It made me want to be in Kyoto, just to hear the descriptions of the temples and bells and sanctuaries of Kyoto. I could just imagine Otoko and Keiko tying their hand-painted kimonos with colorful "obi".
I am glad that Audible added this author to its selection. I would have given this book 5 stars if it weren't for the sometimes clumsy characterizations of the reader. The female voices sounded falsetto and exaggerated, while Oki's son's voice was unnaturally deep.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
The narrator exacerbated everything I didn't like book, so if he doesn't bother you, it could completely change your opinion.
Some of the 'hot and heavy' scenes were gross and weird simply because of how the guy said things like "nipple", seriously. At any rate, very little actually happens in the plot, and the setting, atmosphere, and characters are given more attention because of that. The problem with this is that the characters seemed like complete halfwits because apparently 'love makes people illogical' , but I just ended up irritated with almost everyone for some reason or another. The passion and intimacy I expected from a story about mistresses, spiritual revenge, among other heavy thematic elements, were almost entirely non-existant; most narrative benchmarks, were markedly flat and lacking excitement. I felt that the story slipped into monotony far too frequently.
It took me multiple attempts to finish, which I suppose I'm glad I did because, at least now I know I didn't really miss much, despite the few insights I had while going through. Overall, it was just wrong for me.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful