Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa
My Rating: 4/5 stars
‘In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man’s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction.
Mari begins to visit the mysterious man at his island home, and he initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure. As Mari’s mother and the police begin to close in on the illicit affair, events move to a dramatic climax.’
Ok so there are huge trigger warnings for sexual assault here, not really what I was expecting going in to this after reading some of Ogawa’s other novellas. She is known to be shocking with her stories but this one was by far the most shocking for me. Some parts were very hard to read but by the end if you look past the graphic descriptions of inappropriate sexual exchanges you can see the bigger message that Ogawa lays out.
For me, Japanese authors have a way of conveying human emotions and feelings like nothing I’ve read before, that’s why I love to read them so much. As wrong as the relationship depicted in this story may be, the want, possessiveness and longing from our main character feels very real and relatable.
Not recommended for anyone below the age of 18 or anyone triggered by sexual assault.
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
‘The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home.
Later, Mari is interrupted again by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, and she needs Mari’s help.
Meanwhile Mari’s beautiful sister Eri sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘too perfect, too pure’ to be normal; she has lain asleep for two months. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television’s plug has been pulled out.
Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?’
Another novella by a Japanese author, and the main characters have the same name? what a coincidence. This was my second book read by Haruki and I went in having high expectations seeing as Kafka on the Shore is one of my all time favourite books. I ultimately came away underwhelmed.
The book takes place over 1 night and is written as if we are watching a movie, that aspect I really liked and thought was very unique. Maybe not as weird and other worldly as I was hoping for but it was still intriguing and I had a hard time putting it down. Some moments were nice and creepy but I just wish there had been more.
The characters have a lot of deep conversations about life and humanity that was probably the main focus of this book, I just think maybe it was lost on me as I didn’t connect with it as well as I have with other Japanese books.
Again not a recommended read for under 18’s or anyone triggered by sexual assault.
Children of the Whales by Abi Umeda
My Rating: 4/5 stars
‘In this post-apocalyptic fantasy, a sea of sand swallows everything but the past.
In an endless sea of sand drifts the Mud Whale, a floating island city of clay and magic. In its chambers a small community clings to survival, most dying young from the very powers that sustain them.
Chakuro is the Archivist for the Mud Whale, diligently chronicling the lives and deaths of his people. As one of the saimia wielders, whose life spans are cut short by their own magic, he knows his time is limited and is determined to leave a better record than his predecessors. But the steady pace of their isolated existence on the Mud Whale is abruptly shattered when a scouting party discovers a mysterious young girl who seems to know more about their home than they do…’
I picked this manga up purely based on the beautiful cover artwork and the fact that it is written and illustrated by the same person which I personally feel makes for an overall better experience as a reader.
This first volume didn’t disappoint, there is a lot to learn about the world, its history and how the people live which I found fascinating and wanted to know more. The characters are unique and charming and the first volume ended with a bang. I will most definitely be continuing on with this series. Great humor, serious topics, unique characters and history. Aimed at older readers, violence but so far nothing sexually explicit. The artwork in this manga is gorgeous!