Spring Garden (2014): Tomoka Shibasaki

★★★

You may remember that I have a vaguely vexed relationship with Japanese literature. While I’m fascinated by the culture it describes, I often have difficulty getting into the writing itself, which, at least in English translation, can feel strangely detached or repressed. However, I’m determined to keep at it and, along the way, I’ve found a few books that I’ve enjoyed unconditionally, like the detective novels of Seishi Yokomizo. Spring Garden, which originally caught my attention by virtue of its gorgeous cover, has been on my shelves for a while: now, as the sun grows stronger and the trees burst into blossom, it seems the right time to read it. It falls into the category of ‘evocative but slightly frustrating’: a tale of two lonely people who bond over an old photo-book that records the sky-blue house next door to their block of flats. It’s less a story than a glimpse into someone else’s life – a chance to walk alongside them for a while, without the promise of explanation or catharsis – and it has a bittersweetly nostalgic feel, as Shibasaki explores notions of loss, change and stasis in a world that’s moving too fast.

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