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.