[Looking for nominations!] Intermediate Japanese Book Club // Now Reading: セーラー服と機関銃

Author: 小山田浩子 ( Hiroko Oyamada)

Summary

Japanese

仕事を辞め、夫の田舎に移り住んだ私は、暑い夏の日、見たこともない黒い獣を追って、土手に空いた胸の深さの穴に落ちた。甘いお香の匂いが漂う世羅さん、庭の水撒きに励む寡黙な義祖父に、義兄を名乗る見知らぬ男。出会う人々もどこか奇妙で、見慣れた日常は静かに異界の色を帯びる。芥川賞受賞の表題作に、農村の古民家で新生活を始めた友人夫婦との不思議な時を描く2編を収録。

English

Asa’s husband is transferring jobs, and his new office is located near his family’s home in the countryside. During an exceptionally hot summer, the young married couple move in, and Asa does her best to quickly adjust to their new rural lives, to their remoteness, to the constant presence of her in-laws and the incessant buzz of cicadas. While her husband is consumed with his job, Asa is left to explore her surroundings on her own: she makes trips to the supermarket, halfheartedly looks for work, and tries to find interesting ways of killing time.
One day, while running an errand for her mother-in-law, she comes across a strange creature, follows it to the embankment of a river, and ends up falling into a hole–a hole that seems to have been made specifically for her. This is the first in a series of bizarre experiences that drive Asa deeper into the mysteries of this rural landscape filled with eccentric characters and unidentifiable creatures, leading her to question her role in this world, and eventually, her sanity.

Availability

Amazon (paperback bunko and ebook)
Bookwalker (ebook)

Personal Opinion

I came across this book by accident, and was intrigued by the title and premise. It seems there is a constant air of mystery and foreboding mixed in with mundane everyday life in the countryside, and this combination appeals to me. Apparently there’s a dreamlike quality to it and a blurred line between what’s true and what’s fantasy, so I thought reading with others and being able to discuss everyone’s interpretations would be more fun than reading alone.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Quite short at 208 pages (pages are 160 according to Bookwalker, 137 according to Amazon for the ebook, 208 for the paperback…)
  • Won the Akutagawa prize
  • Available in English

Cons

  • The mix of realism and surrealism may not appeal to everyone. Going by some reviews, some readers didn’t “get it”.
  • Apparently there is more emphasis on atmosphere than plot.
  • There’s two more stories included in the book, about which I could find no info

Pictures

First Four Pages

Additional Pages

Bookwalker preview

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

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