Book review: 『私をくいとめて』by Risa Wataya


Title: 『私をくいとめて』(わたしをくいとめて)
Author: Risa WATAYA (綿矢りさ)
Published by 朝日文庫

I am not very familiar with Risa Wataya’s work. I have read 『勝手にふるえてろ』 in translation before I started learning Japanese, and it did not leave a strong impression on me (I could not even tell you what is happening in the novel). I also tried to read her most famous novel 『蹴りたい背中』(Akutagawa prize), but it was too difficult to read in Japanese at the time.


In 『私をくいとめて』, we follow the daily life and thoughts of Mitsuko who is in her early thirties and single.

This is a short novel of 242 pages, so I never really thought of not finishing it, but I did not really like it either. The idea of a 33-year-old single woman as protagonist was appealing to me because I thought that maybe, there would be social elements in the novel (choosing one’s own path vs social conventions). It is not the case, however, and the story mainly focuses on Mitsuko’s internal life and thoughts.

What I disliked in this novel is that it felt like reading an autobiographical writing. If this book was an non fictional account of the author’s thoughts and life, I would be okay with it, but I would certainly not have bought it. However, given that this is a novel, I expect a little more in terms of plot and character development. I would say that none were satisfactory in 『私をくいとめて』. The story does become interesting towards the end, but it also does not seem to lead anywhere. I never felt like there is a constructed plot behind the story. As for the character development, the protagonist does have an interesting personality, but the story is entirely focused on her and the other characters are not really interesting (apart maybe, from Mitsuko’s colleague).

There are interesting things in this book however, like the thoughts on solitude and what the protagonist dares or not to do alone (like going to cafes or restaurants). But again, I could not help but have the feeling that the author was talking about her own experience rather than building a fictional setting and fictional characters.

I think that in the end, it comes down to whether or not you like this kind of novels and Risa Wataya’s writing style. I can see why some people love it, and I guess that it is easy to identify with the protagonist and share her thoughts.

I will certainly try again to read 『蹴りたい背中』one of these days because I have the book on my shelf and because it won the Akutagawa Prize. But I think that Risa Wataya’s novels are just not the kind of novels that I enjoy reading…

10 responses to “Book review: 『私をくいとめて』by Risa Wataya”

  1. So why did you read this particular book?? Did it win some award? I’ve read keritai senaka and install. I liked both and I liked install the most because the premise was interesting. I think I read them because she won some award. She’s not my favorite author or anything like that. I also read yume wo ataeru which was mediocre and predictable.

    Install is the only book of hers I recommend out of the three I read

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just chose it because I saw it in a bookshop. I guess it’s her most recent novel? It was first published in 2017, but the 文庫 edition went out this year, that’s why there was a pile of them in the bookshop.

      It’s not the first time I hear someone recommending Install over keritai senaka. I’ll keep that in mind, thank you for the recommendation! 


      • it was me that commented. i notice with most authors they have their best works either early or in the middle of the career so i’m usually pretty dubious just buying some “new” book. for example I love honda takayoshi’s earlier works but his newer ones (the ones i’ve read) just don’t do it for me and they pale in comparison to his earlier works. do you notice that too?? I notice the same thing with music sometimes. I’ll love certain albums and after a while the artist only makes music that doesn’t pull me in. for music, bands like ikimono gakari comes to mind. I loved their indie crap and as they kept releasing more and more music, the less and less I became interested in their music (the lyrics make me barf for their new songs lol.. from the boredom they induce). Shiina ringo is very impressive though… she’s a musical genius and i never got the feeling that she lost the passion for making real music.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I believe this might be because if the first book(s) of an author are massively successful, then there is extreme pressure to surpass that level of success in later works and not everyone can do that, especially if the expectations are very high Also, unless they are a big name like Murakami that will sell no matter what, there are also trends to follow and publishing houses are not that quick to take risks with lesser known authors…
          As for the music that you mentioned, I’ve also felt like that for many J-bands and artists (Miyavi, One Ok Rock…). Again I think it’s a matter of sales and producing something that appeals to most people so that the music will bring in profit and it’s not always the case that the artists have lost their passion for the music. Indie artists barely make enough money, but when they sign with major companies they might have to compromise their sound to appeal to a wider audience.
          (Sorry to butt in the conversation ^^” )

          Liked by 1 person

        • I also noticed that earlier works tend to be better for some authors. Like Akylina said, I think it comes from the pressure and publishing deadlines. There might also be the temptation to write what works well rather than taking risks and being creative.

          What I find annoying, as a reader, is that new books from famous authors will be well advertised no matter what, so it is difficult to say if the book gets a lot of attention because it is good or because it is written by this author.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I especially get horrified when the book is bad and the obi is praising the book especially when I know the person who wrote the obi comment. I wonder how much they get paid to promote the book lol. I get that feeling with the kaisetsu at the end of the book sometimes when the book was so-so and the kaisetsu person is kissing the author’s butt

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of Wataya Risa’s works yet, but I do understand where you’re coming from. Although I do enjoy it when a novel features autobiographical features, if it’s focusing on that instead of developing the elements of the novel, it can be really frustrating.

    I hope you enjoy your next books more! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I noticed that Risa Wataya’s female protagonists are often the same age as herself when she wrote the book. This is true for at least 蹴りたい背中, 勝手にふるえてろ and 私をくいとめて.

      I’ll be happy to hear your opinion if you read one of her books. I will try to read 蹴りたい背中 this year. It will help me to complete the “read literary award winning books” part my reading challenge 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Certainly give 蹴りたい背中 a try (it was my first Japanese novel), and perhaps also consider 蛇にピアス (Snakes and Earrings) by 金原ひとみ (Hitomi Kanehara) if you haven’t read it yet. It also won the Akutagawa prize that year, and I liked it better. Great blog btw 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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