ISBN-13: 9780307473691
Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: December 2009
240 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Japanese by: Wayne P. Lammers

Spinning Tropics was a random pick for the TBR Dare Challenge. I haven't been reading Japanese literature for a while and I figured this book would be a good choice considering it is a thin book and that it was the 2007 winner of the Knopf Kodansha Prize, plus the blurb behind said this is a lush and evocative story of an intoxicating love affair and this further heightens the eagerness to read it.

Hiromi Azuma is a 28-year-old female who decamped to Vietnam from Tokyo to work as a Japanese language teacher. She has problems with her mother and feels she is irresponsible and selfish who thinks of no one but herself. Living in a foreign country could be lonely and terrifying, but Hiro soon get used to the lifestyle and culture after knowing Yun who happens to be one of her students in class.

Falling in love with your own student is complicated, and it makes the issue more problematic if the party is of the same gender. Despite this, Hiro and Yun couldn't deny the attraction they have for each other and because of the circumstances, they will behave discreetly to the people around them. Still, Hiro has never felt so happy in her life. Yun makes her alive, and at one point she realises she wouldn't know what to do without Yun.

Their relationship goes on for a while until Konno, a Japanese businessman walks into Hiro's life. Her relationship with Yun began to falter, and jealousy sparks and insecurity arises between the two women.

At first glance, Spinning Tropics seems to me to be an intense story of a jealous woman who is fighting hard to win back her lover, though at some point it seems to be the case but the plot takes on a slower pace and Hiro's emotions are often portrayed throughout the story more than other things. Though I felt the pace is a bit slow, I have to give credit to the author for the detailed descriptions of the characters as well as a good look into the Vietnamese setting and its culture. I felt I was reading a travelogue at times through these descriptions and this made my reading experience all the more entertaining besides the intensity between the two characters. Just when I thought I knew what the outcome would be, the story took a turn and surprised me but I was disappointed to say the punch wasn't powerful enough to shake me to the core. On the contrary, I felt there was no answer to the ending and it left me a hollow feeling. That said, I was impressed with Aska Mochizuki's sharp and concise writing style and though this book may not make it on my best thriller read it definitely leaves a mark on my list through the literary sense.
2 Responses
  1. Julia Says:

    It was an interesting synopsis, Melody but I'm sorry to hear that while you did enjoyed the book, it wasn't your favorite. I'm glad you get to see good look of Vietnamese settings and culture. It always good to learn something of differ cultures. Great review!

  2. Ceri Says:

    Wow, this was an excellently written review, Mel. You're right - this book does sound like an intense love story. But I am fascinated with the ideaof hearing about a Vietnamese girl in Japan. I've never read any Japanese literature before (how awful am I? :S ).

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