First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of the Waves is the timeless story of first love. It tells of Shinji, a young fisherman, and Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. Shinji is entranced at the sight of Hatsue in the twilight on the beach, upon her return from another island, where she had been training to be a pearl diver. They fall in love, but must then endure the calumny and gossip of the villagers.
Another work week is in the books. I hope you are closing the week with a bang. It’s finally time to dive into the weekend! In the past week, a month has ended and another one has started. Happy first day of my birth month! I wish nothing but happiness and health for everyone! To those who have been a little under the weather lately, I hope you get to find that spark and that joy in whatever you are doing. I know it can be difficult but I know you can make it through. I hope you use the weekend, and the remaining months to realign your energy and priorities. More importantly, I hope you are all doing well, in mind, body, and spirit. COVID19 still remains a threat and any misstep might undo the progress we had in the past year. I fervently hope that the virus gets completely eradicated. Only time will tell.
Before I can dive into the weekends, let me close this week with a fresh First Impression Friday update, my first post this July. In the past two months, I have been indulging myself in the works of European Literature. It has been a great journey, as always. I was able to close it out early this morning with my first novel by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity. It was an interesting story but was plodded down by repetitions. For July, I have decided to fly back to one of my favorite parts of the world of literature: Japanese literature. Immediately after finishing Beware of Pity, I started reading my opening salvo for this month’s reading theme: Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves.
Yukio Mishima is, without a doubt, one of the most revered Japanese writers and was also one of Japanese literature’s most interesting, if not controversial figures. He was even tipped to be the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature had it not been for his untimely demise. My first Mishima novel, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, has entranced me despite its length; I guess short novels are pretty common in Japanese literature. This book made me want to read more of Mishima’s work and true enough, I am already into my third Mishima novel, The Sound of Waves. His other work I have already read was After the Banquet. My ultimate goal, however, was to read his The Sea of Fertility tetralogy.
Before I get lost in more jabber, let me go back to the subject of this update. The Sound of Waves is set a couple of years after the Second World War on the island of Uta-Jima, or Song Island, a small island with a coastline of under three miles and inhabitants not going above fourteen hundred inhabitants. The novel’s main character is Shinji Kubo, an eighteen who lived with his mother, a pearl diver, and a younger brother named Hiroshi. Because of the patriarch’s untimely demise during the war, Shinji worked as a fisherman. Apart from the missing patriarch, there was nothing out of place. Like most of the island’s denizens, the family, it seemed, was content in their small world. Everything they need, the sea provided. They can sustain themselves with their understanding of the sea and its ever-changing moods.
The natural flow of things on the island, however, was disrupted by the appearance of a young girl named Hatsue. Her beauty immediately captivated the young men and boys of the island, including Shinji. We learn that Hatsue is the daughter of Terukichi Miyatama, the richest man on the island. As fate would have it, Shinji and Hatsue eventually crossed paths. Considering the size of the island, it was not an impossible notion. But this first meeting left a deep impression on Shinji. He was hit, hit hard by love, an emotion he struggled to describe at first. It was the ubiquitous love at first sight. The more their paths crossed, the more that Shinji fell deeply in love. It seems that his love was reciprocated by Hatsue. I made it all the way up this part.
So yes, the novel was a love story. Male-female relationships and dynamics, I have noted in his two other works I have read, were integral to his stories and it is no different in The Sound of Waves. However, what interests me is how the community responds. Although there’s no direct description of poverty on Shinji’s part, I surmised that there will be clashes related to classes. Their story will naturally invite glances and dagger stares from their fellow islanders. News, after all, travels fast in a remote community. I think this will be the central action and the primary source of tension in the story. I am curious how their love story will develop. Or will it even be given the chance to flourish?
Beyond the two main characters, I am riveted by Mishima’s descriptions of the island. With his precision and adept storytelling, everything was coming alive. It was no far-flung island but a community that was teeming with activity. The cultural touchstones were also enriching the story. The story worked well both in the foreground and in the background. Well, why am I even surprised? Mishima is, I have learned, a skilled storyteller worthy of all the admiration and accolades he has received for his writing. He is again sweeping me off my feet with his astute storytelling. I also feel that the story will subtly underscore how the war has and is shaping modern Japan, like how skillfully wove it into the tapestry of The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea.
I can’t wait for the story to unfold. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!