Melody

Bitter Lemon Press | August 2016 | 224 pgs
Source: Library
Translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai



Tsuneo Asai is a section chief at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Middle aged and a workaholic, Asai's second marriage to Eiko is considered bland and harmonious when their relationship is concerned. As much as Asai adores Eiko, he doesn't really give much thought when Eiko's life is concerned. Given that Eiko is a homemaker, he allows her much freedom in pursuing her interests whenever he's away at work, and it doesn't bother him as long as Eiko is at home when he's back from work. Eiko's interests always waver and it took a few different attempts before she finally decided on taking Haiku class. Because Eiko had suffered a mild heart attack a few years ago, she is especially careful not to exert herself physically and always keep her emotional state in check. As a result, her marriage with Asai is nothing more than a companionship. Asai has gradually adapted to their sexless marriage and didn't think much about it until the day Eiko passed. It appears that she has suffered a heart attack while climbing up a steep road. The place she visited is quite a distance from their home and Asai has no idea what she was doing at a strange place, let alone risking her health climbing up that steep road. And this deep sense of curiosity has prompt Asai to dig into his late wife's mysterious death, and by doing so he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into an obsession until there is no return.

Part mystery and part satire, A Quiet Place was an addictive read about a man's curiosity and obsession that drove him to committing something which is irrevocable. While I found the plot to be simple and common, what captivated me was the prose, that subtle sense of foreboding and last but not least a deeper understanding of the culture of Japanese bureaucracy and how they usually work through interpersonal relationships as well as their work hierarchy. A great exploration of a person's mentality under duress and not to mention an intrigue mystery which had me hooked from the beginning till the end. Recommended. 


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8 Responses
  1. jenclair Says:

    I'm curious--mystery, satire, and obsession. Sounds like a potent mix.


  2. Jenny Says:

    This one sounds very strange. Did it translate ok? Sometimes I read translated books and feel like I missed something.


  3. Like Jenclair, I am really curious about this one. I do like reading books outside my own culture and the premise of this one intrigues me. I am glad you liked this one Melody. I like books that let us get inside a character's head and really understand what they are going through.


  4. Iliana Says:

    I was just thinking that I needed some suggestions for my Japanese Literature challenge and this one would definitely fit the bill. Really got me curious about this one!


  5. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - Yep, but I guess it works here.


  6. Melody Says:

    Jenny - The translation was ok; I think it's harder to understand when certain idioms or meanings are applied in different culture or languages and I'm glad to say I didn't feel anything is amiss here. :)


  7. Melody Says:

    Wendy - Me too, Wendy. Humans minds are interesting and oh so complex. One can never tell what's really on the other person's mind even if if we think we can tell something from their body language.


  8. Melody Says:

    Iliana - I hope you'll enjoy reading this if you get to it, Iliana. :)