This is Book 8 of my 20 Books of Summer 2021
ABOUT THE BOOK
A bestselling, prizewinning novel of obsession and psychological intrigue about two enigmatic unmarried women, one of whom manipulates the other from afar, by one of Japan’s most acclaimed young writers
Almost every day, the Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a single cream bun and goes to the park, where she sits on a bench to eat it as the local children taunt her. She is observed at all times by the undetected narrator, the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. From a distance the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. Like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, she is single, she lives in a small, run-down apartment, and she is short on money. The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures her to a job where she herself works, as a hotel housekeeper; soon the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss. Unfortunately, no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.
Studiously deadpan, highly original, and unsettling, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores the dynamics of envy, the mechanisms of power in the workplace, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, voyeuristic narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.
PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN
Japanese literature never fails to amuse, entertain, befuddle and bemuse me, and this is another one of those books that casts its’ spell on me as I was hooked from page one on this mysterious story of one woman stalking another, to the point of obsession. And it throws up so many questions as to the focus of the story – is it a look at the way we function as a society now, where we become obsessed with people we don’t know via social media and make assumptions about them without knowing the truth? Instead of focussing on ourselves, our own happiness, our own success… it’s just too easy to lose yourself in somebody elses life.
The Woman in the Purple Skirt is a lady who sits on the same bench, eats the same cake – follows the same routine day in day out, talking to nobody, minding her own business – all under the watchful eye of the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan who narrates this story and shares just how obsessive her ‘stalking’ of this woman becomes. The attention to detail is scary! And she even engineers a way to get Purple skirt lady a job where she works – a way to keep an even closer watch over her.
But as Purple skirt settles into her new job, a new side of her is seen and this begins to unsettle Yellow Cardigan as she watches on – losing herself in someone elses life means she doesn’t have o focus on her own, and that isn’t looking too hot right now.
I loved the quirkiness of this story and how it starts off feeling quite light and insightful, but soon has a much darker feel and claustrophobic. It touches on obsession,manipulation and how loneliness affects different people – how perceptions can change of people. The tension works so well as you wait to figure out just where this obsession will lead to… a strange but compelling story!