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August wrap up

September already! It’s time to go through the books I read in August:

It rained almost every day of August, as South Korea has experienced its longest rainy season this year, so there was not much else to do this Summer than to stay at home with a good book. I managed to complete my reading challenge of August and to read two additional books.

『きみの名は。』 by Makoto Shinkai (新海誠) and 『そして父になる』 by Akira Sano (佐野晶)

I read these two novelisations while watching the film. I already talked a lot about reading these two books in Japanese in my post about reading novelisations, so I’ll just link to it here and move on to the next books.

『11文字の殺人』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

When freelance writer Masayuki Kawazu is found murdered, his girlfriend, an author of detective novels, starts to investigate.

This is one of Higashino’s first novels, and it was a real page-turner that I read in four days.

I am very tempted to say that this is the easiest, or at least one of the easiest, Higashino I have read. As my level improves over time, I am bound to find the books I am reading today easier than those I read two or three years ago. But trying to stay as objective as possible, I have to conclude that this book is really on the easy side.

First of all, there are a lot of dialogues. Apart from the end, the core of the novel is based on interviews: our protagonist is investigating the murder of her partner and does not have other means to do it than to talk to people who might be related to the case. The case and deductions are not difficult to follow and I found that the author did not use a wide range of vocabulary.

The only difficulty is to remember who is who in this novel. I have listed 18 characters, but I may have missed one or two. Writing a simple list with the character’s name and one or two words about who they are can really save you a lot of time if, like me, you tend to forget quickly who secondary characters are.

『11文字の殺人』 is definitely a novel that I recommend if you are looking for an easy detective novel.

『六番目の小夜子』 by Riku Onda (恩田陸)

There is a peculiar tradition in our protagonists’ highschool: once every three years, a student is chosen to be the new “Sayoko”, who has a special mission for the school year. This year, however, a new student named Sayoko Tsumura is transferred to the school…

I had this novel on my shelf for a long time, but never got around to reading it. It is a school mystery, I guess, though it is difficult to really classify it.

I found the prologue very promising and was excited to jump into the story. In the end, I found that the novel did not deliver much thrill in terms of suspense or mystery, contrary to what the prologue had let me think.

The first third of the book was very engrossing though. The book looked like a good mystery with a peculiar school tradition as a background. But then, it shifts to more supernatural or mystic elements, and I started to lose interest. The more we learn about the school tradition, the less interesting it became, and overall, I could not understand what was the point of it all.

As for the language level, I would say that for me, this book is still in the “easy reads” bracket but on the higher end. If we compare it to the other books I read this month, it is clearly on the difficult side. Part of the difficulty is that the story is very secretive about what exactly is going on and what is the true nature of this school’s tradition, so I often ended up confused about whether I missed something because of the Japanese, or if the book intentionally left the reader in the dark.

Overall, I am rather disappointed because the prologue kind of promised you an exciting murder mystery, but the mystery turned out to be underwhelming. I had to force myself through the last third of the book, because at the time, I thought I might end up DNFing another of my current reads (see below), and I did not want to end up with two unfinished books in August. (It turned out that the other book became more and more engrossing, so I could have safely left 『六番目の小夜子』 unfinished…)

『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』 by Sugaru Miaki (三秋縋)

22 year-old Mizuho Yugami is going through a difficult time, but things gets worse as he knocks over a high school student while drunk driving. However, things take an unexpected turn of events.

I chose this book because I wanted to read a light novel, but apparently, books from メディアワークス文庫 are not light novels (like I thought they were), but a spin-off of 電撃文庫, targeting adult readers who enjoyed light novels and who want to read entertaining stories.

I found that 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』 had a very slow start, and the first 70/80 pages felt like reading Norwegian Wood to me. At that point, I really thought about DNFing this book because I did not like Norwegian Wood and did not want to read a similar story. As a result, I put it aside and did not touch it for a week or so. At the same time, I was struggling to finish 『六番目の小夜子』 because I was almost certain that I would never pick up 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』again.

I did though, and I just had to read a couple more pages for the story to kick off. From that point on, it became extremely entertaining.

I would say that this novel was on the easy side for me, but it is not something I would recommend for a first read. There are some introspective passages and descriptions of action scenes that, while not difficult per se, still raise the overall level of the book.

I chose this book more for my blog (in order to recommend or make a list of easy books) than for my personal enjoyment, but it turned out to be more entertaining than I thought it would be. I am definitely going to read more メディアワークス文庫 books in the future.

『ガリレオの苦悩』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

Yukawa, alias Galileo, has stopped working with the police, but Kaoru Utsumi, a new detective working under Kusanagi, is taking the lead in cases that might be more complicated than they look. Her zeal is enough to draw Yukawa in the heart of cases once again.

This is the 4th episode in my reading the Galileo series in Japanese. This one is a collection of short stories that has not been translated into English. I was expecting something similar to the first two books (which were short stories too), but it was surprisingly different, with the introduction of Kaoru Utsumi, Kusanagi’s assistant who also appears in Salvation of a Saint. Kusanagi and Yukawa’s relationship has changed since The Devotion of Suspect X, so overall this book feels like an important chapter in the series.

As usual, I find Keigo Higashino easy to read, but I must say that Yukawa’s scientific explanations still leave me very confused and a little bored. I find them difficult to read in Japanese, but I am sure they would be as difficult to me in English (or in French for that matter). If you add the difficulty of specialised vocabulary that I don’t know in Japanese, to my natural unwillingness to make efforts to understand scientific phenomenons, no wonder that I don’t understand exactly Yukawa’s demonstrations.

But this does not prevent me from enjoying the stories, though I must admit that Kaoru taking the place of Kusanagi in the duo with Yukawa made me quite sad.

August rankings

First, I ranked the books I read in August from my favourite to the one I enjoyed the less:

  1. 『そして父になる』: By far the best read of this month. Watching the film and reading the book in parallel was a great experience. The book is the best novelisation I have read so far, it adds a lot to the story and the characters. Highly recommended!
  2. 『ガリレオの苦悩』 : Not only a great book in the series, but a decisive one that introduces a new character to the team and focuses more on Yukawa than the previous titles.
  3. 『11文字の殺人』 : Not the best Higashino, but a very entertaining one, very easy to read and a good way to relax while still reading in Japanese.
  4. 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』: Has quite a slow start and a rather far-fetched mechanism, but once the revenge theme kicks off, was quite entertaining, with a surprising twist at the end!
  5. 『君の名は。』: As much as I love the movie, reading the book has not been such a great experience…
  6. 『六番目の小夜子』 : Overall disappointed in the story.

Then, I tried to rank them by difficulty level, from the easiest to the most difficult:

  1. 『11文字の殺人』 : By far the easiest to me.
  2. 『そして父になる』 : I found this one easy to read, but watching the film at the same time undoubtedly helped.
  3. 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』: Nothing particularly difficult apart some action scenes maybe.
  4. 『ガリレオの苦悩』 :Overall easier to read than いたいの, but the scientific explanations parts were quite challenging to me, so I put it on the 4th position.
  5. 『君の名は。』: Some descriptions are quite challenging with the author using a flowery/poetic language.
  6. 『六番目の小夜子』 : This is the only novel where I am not sure whether I understood everything correctly, but it might just come from the story itself and the fact that there was not much to understand in the first place – like I said, the mystery is underwhelming. I think this book would have left me perplexed in any language.

September reading challenge

I feel motivated to read my way through my TBR! A recent discussion on Twitter made me realise that I have accumulated 20+ unread books… It also gave me enough willpower to start picking up these books at last. I also need to keep track of my reading challenge for 2020, given that there are only 4 months remaining. There is no problem doing both at the same time though. According to my reading challenge, I must focus my readings on nonfiction and literary prize winners, and I have both on my TBR pile, so I guess I have no excuse:

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