I hesitated to write about this series of books I’ve just read, not because I wasn’t sure what I thought about it, but because they haven’t been translated to English yet. Then I thought, they deserve whatever meagre attention I’m able to bring to them, so here it goes:
This is a series of 5 small books (100 pages), that my physical therapist lent me, when we were discussing books in the middle of some knee exercises (what, do I manage to bring books in just any conversation? I at least try!).
Each of the five books has a different narrator, all from the same extended family. It starts with Yukiko, telling her and her parent’s life, and the dramatic events that occur, both in the familial history and outside of it, as Japanese history unfolds, with the 2nd World War, and the atomic bomb in Nagazaki. All the other books follow the same general themes: the family history, spanning over 4 generations, and its devastating secrets, and the History of Japan, of the Korean immigrants, of the bombs and the 1923 earthquake.
It is a very skilled picture of Japanese culture over the years covered – and a great lesson in Japanese history, also, as I knew very little of the tensions between Koreans and Japanese, the earthquake, but it is also a masterful portrayal of this family, through all those different voices. Even more impressive when you learn the books have been written directly in French by Shimazaki, who learnt it when she was 40 years old, living in Canada (geniuses like those would be very annoying, if they didn’t produce such interesting books!)