#20BooksOfSummer2021 THE WOMAN IN THE PURPLE SKIRT by NATSUKO IMAMURA #BookReview

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


MY REVIEW



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!


★★★★

#BookReview Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

ABOUT THE BOOK

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Published by Picador

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

I’ve loved discovering translated Japanese fiction this year so had high hopes for this to be another quirky reading experience, but for some reason it just didn’t feel as magical to me as I hoped it would! It has all the elements of a mysterious cafe and time travelling experiences but it just fell a little flat for me and I didn’t feel connected with it as I’d hoped.

Set in a basement cafe set off the beaten track, it’s a story that follows a few characters as they find themselves there for whatever reason as they’ve heard of this ‘legend’ that if you sit in a certain seat in the cafe, you can be transported back in time to meet someone from your past. There are a number of very important rules that need to be followed for it to work but that doesn’t put off these characters as they are desperate to go back to have one more moment in a certain point in their life – but the present cannot change. Call it the butterfly effect if you will.

There are some very emotional and poignant reasons for wanting to go back – from a woman who let a love walk out of her life, to a woman losing her husband to alzheimers – and reading their stories makes you understand why they wanted to go back. And what it shows is that going back alters their mindset – maybe things happened for a reason and you are left thinking that sometimes things are just meant to be and to happen in the way they did.

I did enjoy this story and it was quite enlightening but I did find at times it felt more like I was reading a play script as the flow just wasn’t there throughout. A sweet read.

★★★

My thanks to Picador and Netgalley for the e-copy in return for a fair and honest review.