Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme that was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners. This meme is quite easy to follow – just randomly pick a book from your to-be-read list and give the reasons why you want to read it. It is that simple.
This week’s book:
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
Blurb from Goodreads
A New York Times Notable Book (2020)
A TIME Must-Read Book of 2020
An Electric Lit Favorite Novel of 2020
Kawakami, who exploded into the cultural space first as a musician, then as a poet and popular blogger, and most importantly as a best-selling novelist, challenges every preconception about storytelling and prose style. She is currently one of Japan’s most widely read and critically acclaimed authors, heralded by Haruki Murakami as his favorite young writer.
An earlier novella published in Japan with the same title focused on the female body, telling the story of three women: the thirty-year-old unmarried narrator, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter Midoriko. Unable to come to terms with her changed body after giving birth, Makiko becomes obsessed with the prospect of getting breast enhancement surgery. Meanwhile, her twelve-year-old daughter Midoriko is paralyzed by the fear of her oncoming puberty and finds herself unable to voice the vague, yet overwhelming anxieties associated with growing up. The narrator, who remains unnamed for most of the story, struggles with her own indeterminable identity of being neither a “daughter” nor a “mother.” Set over three stiflingly hot days in Tokyo, the book tells of a reunion of sorts, between two sisters, and the passage into womanhood of young Midoriko.
In this greatly expanded version, a second chapter in the story of the same women opens on another hot summer’s day ten years later. The narrator, single and childless, having reconciled herself with the idea of never marrying, nonetheless feels increasing anxiety about growing old alone and about never being a mother. In episodes that are as comical as they are revealing of deep yearning, she seeks direction from other women in her life—her mother, her grandmother, friends, as well as her sister—and only after dramatic and frequent changes of heart, decides in favor of artificial insemination. But this decision in a deeply conservative country in which women’s reproductive rights are under constant threat is not one that can be acted upon without great drama.
Breasts and Eggs takes as its broader subjects the ongoing repression of women in Japan and the possibility of liberation, poverty, domestic violence, and reproductive ethics. Mixing comedy and realism, it is an epic life-affirming journey about finding inner strength and peace.
Why I Want To Read It
It’s Monday again which means another Manic, rather, Goodreads Monday post! I wouldn’t mind the manic though for it is also true (HAHA!). This is my 52th Goodreads Monday post which means that it’s nearly been a year since I started doing this post. I am glad I started it for it is a fun exercise, sharing to everyone books I am looking forward to and why I want to read them.
For this Monday’s edition (Christmas is just around the corner), I am featuring Japanese writer Mieko Kawakami’s latest translated work, Breasts and Eggs. I am not sure where I first encountered the book but it left an impression on me. Upon further research, I have learned that it belongs to literary fiction and that it explores feminism in a Japanese setting. Feminism was enough to pique my interest (actually, the title was enough to capture my attention), but the fact that it is explored in a Japanese setting makes it all the more interesting. Most Asian societies, despite the rapid modernization, have remained patriarchal.
Breasts and Eggs, I have also learned, was originally published in December 2007 in Japanese as 乳と卵 (Chichi to Ran). What surprised me is that it was published as a novella (less than 200-pages) but the English translation is over 400-pages long. This makes me rather ambivalent about the translation. Or perhaps there is something lost in translation that I haven’t made out yet. It was also Kawakami’s second novel and was the winner of the 138th Akutagawa Prize, a prestigious Japanese literary award.
It was just unfortunate that I missed out buying a copy of the book during on online bookseller’s recent upload. Nonetheless, I am fervently trying to gain a copy of the book, hopefully next year. How about you fellow reader, what book do you want to read? I hope you can share it in the comment box. For now, happy reading! Have a great week ahead!