'Breathtaking' – Haruki Murakami author of Norwegian Wood
A beguiling novel about three women struggling to determine their own lives in contemporary Tokyo.
A New York Times 'Notable Book of the Year' and one of Elena Ferrante's 'Top 40 Books by Female Authors'
On a hot summer’s day in a poor suburb of Tokyo we meet three women: thirty-year-old Natsuko, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter Midoriko. Makiko, an ageing hostess despairing the loss of her looks, has travelled to Tokyo in search of breast enhancement surgery. She's accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently stopped speaking, finding herself unable to deal with her own changing body and her mother’s self-obsession. Her silence dominates Natsuko’s rundown apartment, providing a catalyst for each woman to grapple with their own anxieties and their relationships with one another.
Eight years later, we meet Natsuko again. She is now a writer and finds herself on a journey back to her native city, returning to memories of that summer and her family’s past as she faces her own uncertain future.
In Breasts and Eggs Mieko Kawakami paints a radical and intimate portrait of contemporary working class womanhood in Japan, recounting the heartbreaking journeys of three women in a society where the odds are stacked against them. This is an unforgettable English language debut from a major new international talent.
'Bold, modern and surprising' – An Yu, author of Braised Pork
'Incredible and propulsive' – Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times
Shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.
Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.
In Kawakami's stirring if uneven tale (after Ms. Ice Sandwich), a struggling writer receives a visit in Tokyo from her sister and niece. When Makiko and her 12-year-old daughter, Midoriko arrive from Osaka, it is not quite the family weekend Natsu envisioned Midoriko has refused to speak to her mother for over six months, and Makiko's ulterior motive for the Tokyo trip is to get her breasts surgically enhanced. Interspersed with Midoriko's heartbreaking journal entries about her increasing awareness of her body as well as how her single, bar hostess mother sets her apart from her classmates, the first half of Kawakami's narrative is bracing and evocative, tender yet unflinching in depicting the relationship between the sisters and between mother and daughter. Unfortunately, the second half, set 10 years later, falters. While Natsu, now 40, has found some success as a writer, she's once again stalled in her career. Natsu would like a child, but is not interested in intimacy. This leaves her with little hope, especially after a group of people who were conceived with the help of sperm donors talk her out of the option. Though Natsu remains an empathetic character, the second part of the book feels overlong and chatty. Kawakami's talent is obvious, though readers may want to stop after Book One, while they're ahead.
I loved the first part more but overall an amazing read