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If I understood correctly, there will be two read aloud sessions for this last section of the book on Sunday June 12th and June 19th at 10:00PM Japan time with an overall book discussion in the last session. Here is the time in your local time zone:
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I’m reading along this week!
I’ve already finished the book.
I’m still reading the book but I haven’t yet reached this week’s starting page
Really an excellent book. The story tied together so nicely and packed a great emotional punch. Seven months of reading well-spent if you ask me. It’s perhaps a bit of a bummer that it’s so long, because otherwise it would make for the perfect introductory native book (a heck of a lot better than Kiki’s at any rate). Supposedly there’s an anime film adaptation on the horizon? Can’t wait for that!
Oh, and I believe they recently released a full furigana version, making it even friendlier to first-time readers (particularly those who don’t know a lot of kanji).
I think it was announced for “Winter 2022”, which I usually think of as January to March 2022, but since that has passed they must mean December 2022 timeframe? I’m worried that they’ll have a hard time packing in so much content into just a single film (if that’s what it ends up being). Even just the climax and wind down would take over 30 minutes of the whole film (if done right), which doesn’t leave a lot of time for everything… I know some people felt the beginning of the book was slow, but without establishing the character relationships I don’t think the ending would land as well. Guess we’ll see!
Alright, I wanna give my thoughts on the bookclub as a whole as well.
First, it was a lot of fun participating in the read-alouds on a weekly basis, and, this might just be placebo, but I feel like the routine of reading the segments in preparation, stumbling over unusual vocabulary, uncommon kanji and non-standard phrasings, and then going over them again with a group and going ‘oh yeah, that thing’ was fairly effective as a supplementary learning method, especially considering it wasn’t too time-intensive. Would recommend.
The fact that I only joined part-way through, rather than having the reading experience spaced out over half a year, probably helped. I don’t think I could have held myself back from finishing かがみ ahead of time if I’d been there from the start.
The book itself was really good, easily the best work of fiction I’ve read in Japanese so far. I liked how internal conflict-focused it was, and how it went about fleshing out its central characters and their dynamics, introducing new ‘relationship crises’ (misunderstandings and missteps, characters hurting each other’s feelings, inadvertently forming cliques and freezing someone out of their circle or just general awkwardness) to keep things interesting, and how it kept you guessing about the setting by continually drip-feeding the reader information chapter after chapter and having it all add up to a cohesive whole.
At the end of this journey, I feel like I’ve come to know both the characters and the setting, and nothing much seems under-developed or cliché. Except maybe for Sanada - what was up with that girl, really?
I almost think that the second half of the book, while more action-packed and immediately gripping, is a bit weaker structurally. The first half is brought alive by the limitations of Kokoro’s perspective. You’re left wondering about the other kids, what their real motivations are and what they’re doing when Kokoro isn’t around (do they like her? are they talking behind her back? are any of them looking for the key in secret? is anyone acting suspicious?!) and that brings the reading experience in line with Kokoro’s distrusting and self-conscious state of mind. By comparison, latter-half Kokoro has basically worked through her internal conflict and is mostly reduced to the role of prospective wish-maker and Aki-saver, plus used as a vehicle for giving us flashbacks to the other 子ヤギ’s situations and re-contextualizing the events up to that point. Basically, she stops being a dynamic character to a large extent, and I would have liked to see her tackle her own real-life problems more proactively as part of the resolution more than the fairytale ending we got.
But oh well, the narrative already juggles a lot of other ideas, and maybe I’m not being totally fair by focusing on where I think it falls short. かがみの孤城 definitely kept me engaged and thinking about its characters each week, and any book that manages that is well worth reading.
Thank you for that really nice write-up of your thoughts, @sphinxfire!
For me, the book really was a transition from being nervous about whether I would be able to read a book in Japanese of this length (keeping up with a book club no less) to being comfortable reading the weekly number of pages with no trouble at all. I think it is a really good book for beginners because large parts are easy to read and it throws in some harder sections occasionally so that I still felt I was learning.
Yes, I totally agree and I also felt that that made the latter part less strong even though the stories of the other kids were very emotionally moving as well. I think it would have been nicer if more of the kids had shared their predicaments (as Kokoro did) so that there could have been more dialogue about that instead of Kokoro just being a passive observer.
I do feel the long running time of the book club didn’t really help my enjoyment of the book . I saw that some others on the forum read the book in a much shorter time and I can imagine that that is much more enjoyable . But hey, that’s what I signed up for.
I also had expected a bit more closure regarding Sanada and the same goes for the stories of the other kids: we don’t get to hear about how any of them eventually resolved their issues, but I guess that would have taken another book to tell . Now it’s just left to our own imaginations, which is fine as well, I guess.
Speaking for myself, the first half of the book was probably hampered by the slow pace of the book club but also a bit by wrong expectations because I continually expected that the search for the key would play a bigger role in the book, but that never happened (until the very end).
I also had real trouble with the passage of time: each chapter (month) just had so little going on that I couldn’t believe that another month had gone by. I also couldn’t accept that the parents didn’t do more to get their kids back in school again. Maybe it is perfectly realistic in Japanese society, but that doesn’t mean I like it