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Great review in particular “the restrained emotional depth, even joy” sums the whole book up a deceptively deep novel and very enjoyable read which I read over the past week.15. The Great Passage by Shion Miura.
Shion Miura's best known novel so far is, like many novels that come out of Japan, a novel about work and life, or work as life. The title refers to the name of a new dictionary of the Japanese language which is proposed by a 2nd-tier publisher, but also metaphorically to the process of work, and of course to life. Lexicographers are generally obsessive and somewhat anti-social people to begin with, and the cast of characters we encounter here who work to finally bring The Great Passage to publication over a period of almost 15 years, are no exception. The main protagonist, Majime's unusual name even means 'serious,' much to the amusement of his co-workers at the start!. This is an appropriately meticulous novel about obsessive dedication to vocation, about how love and home fit into such a mindset and more. It's less obviously populist and amusing than An Easy Life in Kamusari (see above), but it is in no way dull. The characters are no less engaging and memorable, and there is a restrained emotional depth, even joy to be found in its pages.
I have to say that out of the stories presented my favourite was The Life Story of a Sewing Machine had the simplest in terms of narrative ideas but was elegant in its presentation.Recommended above by @Geoffrey Firmin (as well as already by my wife):
17. Things Remembered and Things Forgotten by Kyoko Nakajima.
As Geoff said, this collection, culled from about three collections published in Japan, includes one of the best ghost stories you will ever read, and a couple of others (from the same collection called Ghosts) that are almost as good, which makes me wish that the individual collections had been published separately so we could read the rest. But there is more than that, much more in these stories. It also includes a trans* story that is as joyful and affirming as any I have read, and for once not in any way tragic or traumatic. There are stories that deal with sex, and she writes well about sex, which very few writers actually do. There are stories that deal with growing up, with the passing of time, with loss... and everything is so damn well written. If you are interested in contemporary Japan, if you a fan of the art of the short story, if you just enjoy good writing, you should read this collection. Excellent.