I find that usually any book gets a bit easier after reading a ways into it, and there was a time or two in this section I was reading aloud at a steady clip and absorbing the long sentences in one big flow the way I loved to do with Woolf and I felt pretty good about that.
I enjoyed the story! The way the two of their problems are individual and internal and aren’t really resolved or made any more mutually understandable to each other than they were before, but are maybe somehow made a bit easier to deal with through like, just shared going through it with the eggs certainly reminds me authentically of being a teenager with a single parent. And the narrator just kind of awkwardly bearing witness to it all throughout is very good.
I thought this bit: もう玉子はないの、と訊くので、や、冷蔵庫に、ある、けど、 was very funny in context.
Disclaimer: I’ve only read a translation, but I have questions
So, does the narrator have any strong opinion here, or is the whole point of the story “welp, life is complicated, here’s what happened in mine”?
Particularly I’m interested if she’s supposed to take any side in the “breast augmentation” dilemma or is she is more a passive observer here?
What’s the significance of the sister disappearing for the whole day? Are we supposed to assume that whatever she was doing, she decided not to go with surgery?
Why the thing with eggs was so good for bonding? @rodan did talk about it a little, but I still don’t feel like I’m understanding it
I got the impression that she met up with her ex and got really drunk. Looking back I’m not sure if that’s confirmed or if that’s just the impression the narrator got though? I think it’s left ambiguous whether or not the sister will get the surgery in the future, but she didn’t on this trip at least.
To me I think it’s a case where they’re both separately in extremely stressful situations, Makiko as a single mother with a less-than-ideal job that overworks her with no obvious path for advancement, and Midoriko as a kid in that situation approaching puberty. They’re too wrapped up in their own, separate, extremely stressful issues for words to really be effective (as evidenced by all the notes), so a non-verbal release like the eggs worked pretty good in a pinch instead. It just feels cathartic to do something weird and smash stuff in frustration together, I suppose.
And from a literary perspective, presumably there’s something or other symbolic there that it’s eggs they smash - maybe since generally their stressors are things women are burdened with, like eggs have been connected with throughout in Makiko’s notes etc., and maybe the narrator’s having a bunch of eggs in the fridge in the first place relates to how it seems like she’s mainly just been trying to ignore that kind of stuff. I’m sure there’s plenty of things to pick apart symbol-wise… it’s a little bit on the nose.
eggs → periods → annoying, therefore eggs → annoying and cathartic to smash, maybe
I don’t get the impression the narrator has strong opinions. I took her main reaction to the breast augmentation stuff as like “huh… that’s something you might want to do? huh…” like not having considered it, not relating to it, not necessarily wanting to rain on her sister’s parade but not exactly agreeing with it either. So I think her role is mainly passive observer. I don’t know that in the context of the fiction she’s really even like, consciously narrating to anybody, we’re just getting a slice of her life sort of invasively in that stream-of-consciousness kind of way.
Author-wise, I think Kawakami sets up the three characters as points of contrast but doesn’t necessarily tell us what to take away from it. I suppose my main lingering question about the narrator would be how to take how much less of her life we get compared to the others. Does that imply she’s less stressed, or just isn’t thinking/talking about it? On the other hand is her worrying about stuff like the TV cause for concern? (I get the impression maybe from the overnight period scene that like - her stressors might not be as confusing and earth-shaking as they are for Makiko but they’re still there and intrusive). This situation with her sister and niece doesn’t really seem like something she can really help with, but it seems like the trip went pretty well so I guess the only thing to do is hope that stuff gradually improved for all of them.
That’s all more like, literary interpretation than language stuff though so feel free to take away something completely different!
Thank you for your answer!
Sometimes I wonder how you find time for all your long posts. Not that it’s a bad thing, I love your long posts
Afaik it was just the narrator impression. And I wanted to confirm if I didn’t miss anything, because that disappearance seemed quite important, but then it was left ambiguous
But I guess I just have to accept that the book was supposed to be vague and that’s just Not My Thing
But I’m happy that I confirmed, because apart from me not catching something, I was also afraid that something obvious was lost in translation
And I definitely didn’t catch the the full meaning of the Metaphorical Eggs!
Ohhh, I get it now. I’m aware of the trope, but I guess smashing stuff in frustration together to get catharsis is something so alien for me, I needed it spelled out anyway
As for the symbolic literary perspective, I guess I was too hung up on the fact that the narrator was struggling with money and yet she was planning to waste huge amount of food. I wanted to shout at her “don’t go out to eat! what do you mean, what can you do with just eggs? scrambled eggs! yes, without add-ons! I eat them like that all the time, they’re fine like this! or you can just eat them boiled, c’mon, they’re eggs, they are perfect for the easy basic meals…” ahem
But yes, your interpretation about eggs symbolizing periods/femininity makes perfect sense.
I guess the fact that the eggs expired may even mean that it’s a symbol for the narrator not becoming a mother or something
(Which is actually what the sequel is about, which I didn’t read, but I heard about the plot)
Anyway, thank you once more for your detailed answer
maybe it’s a good place to say that I’m very hoping that you’ll really join the 地球星人 book club in november and not just maybe
Thanks! Just long-winded and prone to getting stuck on a train of thought, and tend to have a lot of free time in general…
Yeah I think I took the lack of additional questioning about it to mean that the impression of what happened was strong enough that everybody involved could tell it’s what happened. But I suppose the people who could confront her for more confirmation don’t seem like the especially confrontational type anyway! So who knows…
maybe/probably! コンビニ人間’s been on the top of one of my queues for a long time and it felt vaguely like I should read that first, but there’s really no reason to (and late November’s still a pretty long way away anyhow…)
Omg yeah when she wanted to throw away the eggs I was like nooooo. And IIRC she said they were nearly expired, not even fully expired? Plus personally, I’ve never encountered a bad egg, even past the date. Maybe it’s because or Europe’s policy of not washing them vs the US where they are washed? It made me wonder which one Japan is doing, and apparently most eggs sold in supermarkets are washed.
Cool, I didn’t know there was a sequel and now I want to read it. What is it called?
I don’t remember how old the main character is but we do know that she doesn’t have any kids, and she’s been having irregular periods recently which AFAIK is an early sign of menopause (nearly expired eggs!) But we don’t really get her thoughts on this whole situation, it seems that it just doesn’t bother her much (good for her!).
That was exactly my reaction too! Haha. That is some interesting additional information, thank you for that!
I did get the general metaphor egg=eggs, but I didn’t fully complete that thought. I would have missed the implications of MC throwing away her nearly expired eggs completely if not for the discussion here. I wonder what I means that now they’re being smashed by her family instead…
well, コンビニ人間 is more “normal” (tame? less excessive?) of the two
(yes, I read 地球星人 translation too, but here I’ll be rereading in Japanese with the book club)
Phew, that’s a relief that it wasn’t only me who cared about that
I don’t think I ever let eggs expire past the date, so I can’t comment about that. But I’m also in no-washing country and I only wash them just before eating.
…But maybe it’s better that Japan is on the washing side, because now I thought about our characters breaking eggs on themselves with said eggs still having some feces on the shell…
When we’re on the differences between countries topic, I was also wondering about hiring minors issue. Book says they were lying about their age, but… is this supposed to imply that they were hired illegally, without any documents? Does it happen often in Japan? And I can see a bar doing this, but a factory? And there is also that scene with the police involvement, and there is a issue with the girls’ age, but not with the illegal employment as such? But I guess it might be really hard to google. I low-key hope for @Naphthalene to answer this when they finish the book
Oh, I didn’t think about her irregular periods as the menopause sign, but you are absolutely right
The title is a pun on the character’s name - 夏物語.
It’s much much longer, with paperback bunko edition having 656 pages
EDIT: actually 乳と卵 might also be reprinted in that?
I only wanted to @ you next to the question for the moment you’ll be reading through this thread sometime in the future, but if you’ll never get to that, it’s fine too
It’s not like I can expect you to be able to answer all questions about how-things-are-done-in-Japan anyway
About the first point, that’s what she said happened, but we have no confirmation or detail. About the second point, we also don’t know because they didn’t talk about it, in the end. (They could have brought it up in the morning… or on the phone later or something; obviously the author wants to keep it vague).
Considering she deflected talking about her work, I assume it’s not going so well.
I was screaming the same thing internally. “I can’t eat that much until tomorrow”. Err, yes you can (and should! Eggs are good for you! Much better than eating out). Well, the eggs served a different purpose in the end, so whatever.
Oh wow, there’s actually more? I might read it, just because I’m worried about the characters’ health (especially 緑子’s eyes; she might not get mentioned at all though)
Wait, what part are you talking about?
Otherwise, legal age to get a full time job in Japan is 16, however there are things you can’t do (e.g. handling alcohol).
Also, yes, you need to provide some ID with your address when you get a job. Depending on the situation, they may ask for a full 住民票 or a simple driver’s license may suffice. (It’s much easier to fake the latter than the former, if you want to)
Oh, right, I remember those parts now. (I read that 2 weeks ago and forgot already )
The first one is just a バイト, not full time (high school students would not be able, logistically, to do full time) and that can be pretty lenient (it’s still illegal though, but as far as I know both parties involved would just get a slap on the wrist if it was found out, so nobody cares).
Second one is more serious, since you need to be 18 (iirc) to work at night (and 20 to handle alcohol, officially). People do use fake driver’s licenses to manage that (cf 放浪息子) but, err, they are usually 16 or 17. It’s not like those girls fooled anyone, I presume.
Hum, I don’t, and I’m increasingly confused. At first I thought I either had a very bad memory or Aislin was referring to the second story (week 4, which I haven’t read yet) by mistake. But I “found” the English translation (“Breasts and Eggs”) and the quotes are in there and I tried to find the matching part in 乳と卵 but it’s just not there. Then I look at the cover page and it says… “Original Title: Natsumonogatari”. And wikipedia says “In 2019, Kawakami published the novel Natsu Monogatari (夏物語). It features a completely rewritten version of the original 2008 novella [i.e. 乳と卵], but uses the same characters and settings.”
So we’re not actually reading the same thing?
and I was actually wondering if they are any changes between editions, but since @Naphthalene remembers - now I am also very confused.
The English version is a translation of both 乳と卵 and 夏物語, without the bonus story book club gets during Week 4. (and I just read the first story anyway)
But there was one Japanese quote from Week 1, I think, that I didn’t remember from my reading, but I assumed I just forgot or I’m not recognizing it after the language switch.