The Nakano Thrift Shop

9781846276002

Hiromi Kawakami

First Sentence:     You know what I mean?

Back of the book:

When Hitomi takes a job on the cash register of a neighbourhood thrift store, she finds herself drawn into a very idiosyncratic community. There is Mr Nakano, an enigmatic ladies’ man with several ex-wives; Masayo, Mr Nakano’s sister, an artist who has never married; and her fellow employee Takeo, a shy but charming young man. Every day, customers from the neighbourhood pass in and out as curios are bought and sold, each one containing its own surprising story. When Hitomi and Takeo begin to fall for one another, they find themselves in the centre of their own drama – and on the edges of many others. A tender and affecting exploration of the mystery that lurks in the ordinary, this novel traces the seemingly imperceptible threads that weave together a community, and the knots that bind us to one another.

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The Miner

 

MIner

Natsume Sōseki

First Sentence:     Been walking and walking through this band of pine trees.

Back of the book:

The Miner is the most daringly experimental and least well-known novel of the great Meiji writer Natsume Sōseki. An absurdist tale about the indeterminate nature of human personality, written in 1908, it was in many ways a precursor to the work of Joyce and Beckett.

The narrative unfolds within the mind of an unnamed protagonist-narrator, a young man caught in a love triangle who flees Tokyo, is picked up by a procurer of cheap labour for a copper mine, then travels toward and inside the depths of the mine, in search of oblivion. As he delves, the young man reflects at length on nearly every thought and perception he experiences along the way.

His conclusion? That there is no such thing as human character. The result is a novel that is both absurd and comical, and a true modernist classic.

Quote from the book:

[…] if you can cry, you’ve got nothing to worry about. As long as you have tears to shed, you can certainly still laugh.

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Spring Snow

Spring Snow

Yukio Mishima

First Sentence:     When conversation at school turned to the Russo-Japanese War, Kiyoaki Matsugae asked his closest friend, Shigekuni Honda, how much he could remember about it.

Back of the book:

Tokyo, 1912. The closed world of the ancient aristocracy is being breached for the first time by outsiders – rich provincial families, a new and powerful political and social elite.

Kiyoaki has been raised among the elegant Ayakura family – members of the waning aristocracy – but he is not one of them. Coming of age, he is caught up in the tensions between old and new, and his feelings for the exquisite, spirited Satoko, observed from the sidelines by his devoted friend Honda. When Satoko is engaged to a royal prince, Kiyoaki realises the magnitude of his passion.

Quote from the book:

Once we are even marginally separated from what we can touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch.

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The Guest Cat

9781447279402

Takashi Hiraide

First Sentence:     At first it looked like low-lying ribbons of cloud just floating there, but then the clouds would be blown a little bit to the right and next to the left.

Back of the book:

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

murakami cover

 Haruki Murakami

First Sentence:     From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.

Back of the book:

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

Quote from the book:

Jealousy – at least as far as he understood it from his dream – was the most hopeless prison in the world.

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