#JanuaryInJapan: Loneliness and Finding Your Passion

I was going to write separate reviews, or at least talk about them two by two, but in the end they all seem to speak to each other. So I have attempted something new: an audio review (podcast seems a bit too ambitious a term).

They are all books about misfits, quirky outsiders who seem to struggle to socialise with other people, who all have a passion for something, who put up with many disappointments and ultimately find some kind of resilience or escape. They are all written by women, but in two of the books the main protagonists are men, which allows for an interesting contrast. I discuss several common themes that run through all the books: the lonely, socially inept main protagonist who explores ways in which to live their life via their craft or hobbies; the yearning for human connection, perhaps even love; the mentor character; the pragmatic character who provides a strong contrast to our dreamy protagonist; finally, some thoughts about style and appeal.


Kawakami Mieko: All the Lovers in the Night, transl. Sam Bett and David Boyd

Miura Shion: The Great Passage, transl. Juliet Winters Carpenter

Miyashita Natsu: The Forest of Wool and Steel, transl. Philip Gabriel

Plus a Taiwanese novel that also fits this theme:

Lee Wei-Jing: The Mermaid’s Tale, transl. Darryl Sterk

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. However, you can also set up a link to your favourite independent bookshop and they too will get a share of the sale price.

You may be surprised to discover that The Great Passage has been adapted for an animated TV series. Here are the characters from the book in their anime form.

12 thoughts on “#JanuaryInJapan: Loneliness and Finding Your Passion”

    1. I haven’t read those, although I am tempted. However, I am more interested in her book loosely based on the Makioka Sisters ‘Ano ie ni kurasu yonin no onna’

  1. What a great idea, Marina Sofia, for discussing these reads. I’ve often thought of doing a podcast myself, and you’ve inspired me to think about it! As to the books, the thing I kept thinking about was ‘disconnection.’ Here are people who, for whatever reason, are disconnected, and, as you say, want to be connected. But they tell themselves otherwise, for different reasons. Perhaps it’s too hard to admit that need for human closeness? In any case, Thanks for sharing this.

    1. That is exactly right: it’s all about disconnection and the difficulty of admitting that we are seeking for connection – but perhaps not in the conventional ways in which society tries to force us.

  2. Loved your audio reviews, Marina! I was very surprised and happy that I’ve read two of the books, The Great Passage and The Forest of Wool and Steel. Loved them both. Haven’t read Mieko Kawakami yet. Hoping to read Breasts and Eggs one of these days. Lee Wei-Jing is a new-to-me writer. Her book looks very fascinating! Made me think of the Japanese movie, Shall We Dance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    1. I am a keen dancer myself who has struggled to keep up with dancing because of a lack of a dance partner, so you can imagine the story resonated with me. I think it might be better to start with Mieko Kawakami either with this one, or with Heaven, or with Ms Ice Sandwich. Breast and Eggs is quite long and most o fmy book club members did not like it (I did, but thought it didn’t necessarily hang together all that well, as there are two parts to it).

      1. Hope you are able to find a good dance partner. Thanks for the recommendations on Mieko Kawakami. Will add these three to my list and will try to read them first. Ms Ice Sandwich looks like a beautiful story. Maybe I’ll read that first.

  3. Great idea of an audio review!
    Still planning to read The Great Passage. I didn’t know about the anime, I just watched 5 minutes of it, it was a fun surprise to recognize several words!!

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