(I don’t usually post book reviews on Friday, but I will certainly take some holidays at the end of the month, so if I want to publish all my book reviews before the end of the year, I will have to post twice a week!)
I have finished 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』by En MIKAMI (三上延) and I loved it! It is a light novel published by メディアワークス文庫 (Kadokawa) and as such, it is easy to read, even for Japanese learners.
The Book and the Story
『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』is a novel, but it is divided into 4 chapters that each contains an independent story. I like this structure very much because the book, while being a novel, allows you to take a break between two chapters without feeling lost when you return to it.
The story is simple enough: the young Daisuke meets the owner of a used bookstore, the beautiful and mysterious Shioriko. Together, they will solve mysteries brought by the clients of the bookstore. Hence the subtitle of the book: “栞子(Shioriko)さんと奇妙な客人たち”.
To be honest, I was a little afraid that the story would evolve into an obvious romantic relationship between the two protagonists, but it does not: the novel is a mystery novel, not a romance.
And the mysteries are quite good, too. I was unable to put down the book once I started a chapter, and I have usually read a whole chapter in only one or two reading sessions. Once you start, you want to know what happened, and you cannot stop reading!
As I said, each chapter is devoted to a mystery, and this mystery is always linked to a book. You absolutely don’t need to have read these books to enjoy the story, you don’t even need to know who the authors are. Daisuke, the protagonist, has a physical condition that makes him unable to read. As a consequence, he has read none of the books that appear in the story, and if the contents of the book is important, Shioriko will explain it to him. So no need to have studied Japanese literature!
A light novel
I still don’t know how to define a “light novel”. All I know is that I have read three this year, and they were all easy to read. If we take the definition that author Emi KITAGAWA gives of a “light novel” 「とにかく楽しいもの」, then I can say that 『ビブリア古書堂の事件手帖』is a perfect light novel: this book was highly entertaining, enjoyable and pleasant to read.
I highly recommend this book to Japanese learners. The Japanese level is not high, there is enough suspense to keep you reading even if you stumble across a difficult part, the plot progresses quickly, no long descriptions or narrative passages, a lot of dialogues, a limited number of characters, and so on.
As a Japanese learner trying to read novels in Japanese, this book was one of the most pleasant experiences of the year. Of course, I feel rewarded if I can read my way through a challenging book, but being able to forget that I am reading in a foreign language and simply enjoy the story is also extremely rewarding.
I am tempted to read the other books of the series, but there are so many interesting titles on the メディアワークス文庫 site, that I might pick another one next time!