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Book review: 『老後の資金がありません』by Miu Kakiya

Introduction

Title: 『老後の資金がありません』(ろうごの しきんが ありません)
Author: Miu KAKIYA (垣谷美雨)
Published by 中公文庫

I never read Miu Kakiya before, and I chose this book mainly to fulfill my 2020 reading challenge and read more widely. But to be honest, I was not sure whether I would like the story because I am not really preoccupied by 老後の資金 myself.

Review

ささやかで平凡な暮らしをするのさえ難しい世の中になってしまった。

Our protagonist is Atsuko, she is just over 50, is married and has two grown-up children (still living at home). She is the one who takes care of all the financial matters of the household and when our novel begins, she has managed to save enough money for the old days of the couple. However, life gets in the way, and her financial plan starts falling apart.

To be honest, I am the opposite from Atsuko. We don’t have the same age or family situation, she is far-sighted and provident, and I am the opposite of that. I feel closer to other members of her family (like her husband or daughter) who seem to have no financial notions at all. But the generation and cultural differences between the protagonist and I made the book even more interesting to me.

しかし、夫には定年退職があるが、自分は死ぬまで家事から逃れられない。昔は三世代同居が当たり前だったから、息子が嫁をもらったら、姑は家事から解放されたものだが、今はそうは行かない。

I can see that this book is targeting a readership who is close to Atsuko and can identify with her. I can imagine how funny and supportive Atsuko’s story can be for readers who experience similar situations. To me, on the contrary, this book was all the more interesting because I don’t have experienced any of Atsuko’s financial ordeals. This novel has allowed me to learn about Japanese society, to peek into a typical Japanese household and see all the organisation and planning it requires from the financial supervisor. It is one thing to read about elderly households savings and public pension uncertainties in the news, but it is much more concrete to follow the daily life of someone directly affected by it.

While the topic of the book is a serious one, the tone of the novel remains light-hearted and the author has put a lot of humour in it. I found some scenes very funny. Towards the end, the novel loses in realism and becomes more a comedy than a 家計応援小説, like the summary on the back cover indicates. The summary also says that it gives courage and hints to overcome anxiety relative to financial problems. It certainly gives courage, but it is not a manual or a list of applicable tips. This book is first and foremost an entertaining work of fiction.

As such, I think that it can be read and enjoyed by a wide range of readers, no matter your family or financial situation. The term 家計応援小説 is reductive and can make many people think “this book is not for me”. If I had read the summary before buying this book, I would not have bought it. I would have thought that I don’t need advice or support concerning household finances and I would have missed the opportunity to read a humorous and engrossing novel.

『老後の資金がありません』is one of my favourite books read this year. I love novels that can tackle serious problems while being witty and funny.

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