I was browsing The Paperback Bookshop’s online catalog when I saw a book in pink with Japanese type of houses and a Sakura tree pictures on it. Titled People From My Neighbourhood, it’s written by Hiromi Kawakami.
Hiromi Kawakami’s first English translated book was The Strange Weather in Tokyo. I bought it at the WHS at Singapore Changi International Airport and finished reading on the plane on my way back to Jakarta. It’s the book that topped my reading list in 2014. And I thought that was reason enough to get this book from the bookshop.
When the book came in the mail a week later, I kept it aside, planning to savor it once I had finished my exam. And I ended up reading and finishing it hours right after my exam.
People From My Neighbourhood was a light read as was The Strange Weather in Tokyo but it wasn’t nearly as good.
Japanese fiction, at least the ones I gravitate towards, usually are peppered with surrealism and absurdity. Which is something I expected from People From My Neighbourhood, especially since it was the second book of hers that I was reading. But I didn’t expect surrealism to be the main theme of the book.
The book, divided into 36 chapters, talks about the people who live in the narrator’s imaginary town (neighbourhood). Each chapter/story went on for a few pages. All were too short to build any connection with the characters. Nor to accept the absurdity of their personality, stories, and or situation. I didn’t understand any of the characters, let alone empathizing or liking them.
Except maybe for the middle-aged woman who runs a drinking place called The Love, who puts up the same menu every single day, which includes iced-coffee and iced-coffee only no matter the season or weather.
Another good thing from the book was the ending, the last page of the book, which I very much enjoyed. But that’s it. Nothing else.
Only now when I am typing this I realize People From My Neighbourhood was the third Hiromi Kawakami book I have read. Last year I eagerly anticipated and utterly disappointed by The Ten Love of Mr Nishino. I only half-read it as I couldn’t continue reading after a paragraph somewhere in the middle of the book put me off so much.
Hiromi Kawakami’s novels are not my cup of tea, I know this now. The Strange Weather in Tokyo was just a beautiful one-off. Read it if you are into Japanese fiction and gratify more towards Haruki Murakami’s style of writing instead of, say Banana Yoshimoto’s.