Winner of The Novel Prize in 2021, this story is about a daughter and her mother’s holiday through Japan. They visit galleries and museums, eat at restaurants and generally act as tourists do.
This is a short novel of only ninety-nine pages and the narrative is filled with the daughter’s observations of art, or literature, her family or her mother. We get little sense of the mother’s thoughts or feelings and she comes across as reserved with little personality. Their relationship seems strained with a portrayal of detachment across a cultural divide.
The narrator makes the following observation to her mother. “Maybe it’s good, I said, to stop sometimes and reflect upon the things that have happened, maybe thinking about sadness can actually end up making you happy.” Yet we are given nothing about the mother’s response which left me a little frustrated.
There is a lot of minute detail some of which leaves little to the imagination for the reader. This together with the ‘tell’ nature of the prose served to take me out of the story, giving me nothing to feel or even at times to care about the daughter or the mother.
Almost like a travelogue of observations and although nicely written, I found this one difficult to engage with. I’m glad it was a short one.