My copy of
is a 1982 first edition with jacket, of which this is an illustration, of the future Nobel Prize-winning author’s first novel, published by Faber & Faber.
I will do my best to adhere to my normal practice of revealing as little as possible of this somewhat enigmatic tale spanning time and continents after the, until now, most destructive bombing in world history.
We begin with the acknowledgedly unreliable memories of a bereaved mother who has left her Japanese home for England. Her narrative moves backwards and forwards from her 1980s to post-war dwelling. Are the Nagasaki-based mother and child of whom she speaks figures from reality or reflections of herself and her family? Is this a ghost story? Is it possible to leave all behind?
The changing lives and attitudes of the old and the new Japan and its generations is a key element of tension. Is it possible to begin again with fresh attitudes?
The literal and figurative wasteland is in itself a relevant character.
The writing is elegant and spare, although the author’s descriptive skills and somewhat longer sentences come to the fore in part two. Repetition of phrases in brief dialogue between people who don’t listen to each other and use smiling defence slows down the attentive reader and adds to the delicacy of the work.
The “pale view of hills” is seen by possibly lost pensive characters looking out from within their windows. What does this reveal to those who apparently have nothing to look forward to? Can recovery come in their lifetimes or must it wait for future generations.
A most thought-provoking short novel, albeit leaving me with considerable sadness, especially as the world appears to have learned nothing since 1945.