I read Kakuta's novel while in Japan with my Japanese wife on an extended stay. We actually read it at the same time - she in Japanese and me in English. The novel offers a compelling double narrative. As it traces the struggles of a housewife (Sayoko) to find a social place where she's accepted and that's satisfying to her, it simultaneously flashes back to the junior high school days of Aoi, a female entrepeneur of the same age. These two women eventually meet, and the novel looks at how their current relationship is affected by the failed female relationships of the past. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I liked the exploration of relationships and could relate to a lot of it even though I'm a guy. The book reveals a lot about Japanese culture and relationships, even though I don't think you have to know a lot about Japanese culture to appreciate this novel (though Bruce Feiler's book Learning to Bow about the Japanese junior high school system helped me to understand the clannish nature of Japanese junior high schools that both girls experienced). Anyway, I'd recommend this book to anyone. I hope more of Kakuta's works are translated into English (or that I become literate in Japanese!).
Highly recommended read2007/10/5
I have always had a fascination of Japan, the society and her culture since I visited a few years back. Good Japanese fiction and films have a long time left a lasting impression on me and this book is no different.
It depicts and covers a motley crew of issues in Japanese society ranging from the sometimes "archaicsm" of mentalities towards child rearing, working married women and the challenges, stigmas that single, unmarried women face. The relationship between the 2 women is touching as they find common solidarity in spite living different situations.
A highly enjoyable read as I finished the book from page to page in 1 day .I am looking forward to future translations of Kakuta's work in the English language.