At the weekend as well as being at a meeting of UK Book Bloggers in London town, I also spent the day with the lovely Evie Wyld at Foyle for Vintage Classics Day. Well when I say the whole day we missed two hours of it because we were too busy having a good old natter and quite a lot of cake. Anyway, Martin Amis was there and he said he believes that Japanese and Chinese will become the forefront of literature (to the point where in the it’s the prime language we will all read in), he also said that literature from the 60’s to 80’s seems to be forgotten or less popular because they take longer to build up, even the short ones, and today’s modern reader pretty much instant gratification. All this is very interesting, I hear you murmur, but what has this to do with today’s book? Well it’s Japanese and it was originally published in 1963 and it has the slow build up.
This was really quite the surprise read for me, I didn’t really know what I was getting with Yukio Mishima’s ‘The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea’ (mainly because I pilfered it from my mother’s shelves when I went to stay) and as I sat down with it I wasn’t really sure what I was in for, I certainly didn’t expect a book as full and as dark as this slim unassuming book might suggest. All in one this book manages to be a tale of love, of coming of age, the darkness of the mind and a family saga.
Noboru Kuroda is a young boy of thirteen who has had five years of the world just being him and his widowed mother Fusako. In fact as the book opens and Noboru sits in his chest of drawers spying on his mother as she undresses you realise here is a boy filled with obsession and serious dependence though he fights against it. However one night his mother isn’t alone in the room as she has brought a man home with her. The man in question is sailor Ryuji Tsukazaki a man who is somewhat distant from the world and those around him, until he meets Fusako that is. Initially Noboru is not particularly fazed by his mothers new relationship as Ryuji sails away again, however when he returns and things get more serious Noboru wants action and so turns to the delinquent gang he has joined and their troubled leader.
I can occasionally be guilty of wanting a book to instantly pull me; Mishima slowly teases you and builds everything up with this novel and it catches you unawares. You are initially made concerned by Noboru and his spying on his mother, then you become engrossed in the wonderfully tender and touching true love story of a rich widow and a penniless sailor before being further disturbed when Noboru and his gang meet up and commit a callous act that actually really upset me (it involves a kitten is all I will say) and Mishima starts to let the reader know this could have far from a happy ending. I thought this book was marvellous, a slow burning taught book which packs a weighty punch whilst incorporating a truly beautiful love story only making it all the more bittersweet. 9/10
Highly recommended! Only worry is that I have heard this is Mishima’s masterpiece so have I read the best one already, anyone read any of the others?
Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami (read it before my blogging days and was in awe of it)