I didn’t know what to draw to illustrate November, so I just drew my cat 🤷♀️
Japanese books read this month
Aではない君と by Gaku Yakumaru (薬丸岳）
Based on the other books I read by this author, I was expecting a thriller with a little more action than Aではない君と contains. The novel is quite slow but stays engaging all along with an interesting topic: what happens when a minor is arrested in a murder case.
This is the fourth Yakumaru book I have read now, and Aではない君と contains topics that were already treated in other books: school bullying in ガーディアン, murder committed by minors in 天使のナイフ, and more generally, the protagonist is often a father who leads a normal life until something tears his life apart, and he has to fight for truth or justice (天使のナイフ, 約束).
I would say that Aではない君と was my least favourite of all four books. The pace is slow with a lot of repetitive scenes, and I could not feel any sympathy for our protagonist’s son, the character around which the whole novel revolves.
最後の証人 by Yuko Yuzuki (柚木裕子)
This book is the first in the Sadato Sakata series, and it was excellent! Sadato Sakata used to be a public prosecutor, but we learn that he resigned years ago to become a lawyer. In this novel, we follow Sakata as he takes a difficult case and finds himself fighting prosecutor Mao Shoji in court.
I was a bit disappointed at first because I was expecting the whole novel to be about court proceedings, but we also follow the narrative of what happened from the point of view of the characters involved. As a result, the court scenes where we hear witnesses talking about the case can sometimes feel unexciting as we think we know what happened already.
The end was surprising though, and the chapter recounting the last day of the trial was extremely engrossing.
Interestingly, the following 3 books of the series are all collections of short stories about the time when Sakata was a public prosecutor. I happen to have already read the second book of the series because I did not know that it was the second book when I bought it. There was nothing on the cover, the obi or even inside the book that told me “this is the second book in a series, you should start with that one”. I really hate when this happens as I prefer to read a series in order, even if it does not have much impact with this series.
妖怪博士｜暗黒星 by Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
This is the 11th book in the Kogoro Akechi series that I am reading this year. There are 12 books in the collection I bought, and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book a month, so I am close to completing my challenge!
妖怪博士 belongs to the Boy Detectives Club series, and it was extremely good. I cannot say if it was my favourite because all the novels I read from this series are all equal in quality. If you love one, you will probably love them all. One thing with this series though, is that you really need to read them in order. 妖怪博士 in particular is much more enjoyable if you have read the first adventures of the Boy Detectives Club. It even contains some spoilers as to how the previous cases were solved.
暗黒星 belongs to the regular Kogoro Akechi series, and it was a pure delight. It belongs now to my favourite books of the series together with 魔術師 and 吸血鬼. There are two types of plot in the series. One is when a villain is introduced as the worst criminal of all time who is terrorising the city, and the story is then a Akechi vs Villain adventure. The other type is when some weird and inexplicable events happen to a family (usually living in a big house) and Akechi is called to investigate, the crime is then more intimate and personal. Sometimes, both lines are mixed, but I really do prefer the latter. This is the kind of story with have here in 暗黒星 and I did not want it to stop. I wish that the last two remaining novels (only one book, but it contains two novels) are in the same line.
Korean reading project
I’ve learned Korean before learning Japanese, but unfortunately, I have never been able to read comfortably in Korean. I did manage to finish several novels (maybe 4 or 5), but I never reached that cap that I had with Japanese, where reading progressively but steadily becomes easier. The lack of kanji (I should say ”hanja”) is really killing me, and I have given up trying to read whole novels in Korean. The fact that the book scene in Korea is not really focused on mystery fiction also did not motivate me to put in the extra effort.
But now, I have decided that things must change 😠 !! I will apply the same method I used for Japanese to read Korean books. I will report on the books I read in my monthly wrap ups and I’ll try to read one Korean book per month. I might also write short reviews for them, but I will certainly group 3 or 4 books in the same blog post.
아몬드 (Almond) by Won-pyung Sohn (손원평)
The book I read this month is 아몬드 by Won-pyung Sohn 손원평. It has been translated into English under the title Almond by Sandy Joosun Lee. Interestingly, this book was labelled as Young Adult fiction when it came out in Korea, but after reading it, I would say that it is more correct to just classify it as literary fiction.
Our protagonist and narrator, Yunjae, is born with a brain condition that makes it impossible for him to have emotions and to identify or understand other people’s emotions. Yunjae is our narrator, so we see the world through his eyes and interact with other characters through him as well, which is what makes this book so interesting.
As for the language level, 아몬드 is definitely on the easy side, though it is not the easiest book I have read in Korean (for example, I am reading 일의 기쁨과 슬픔 by 장류진, and I find it is easier). With the English translation available though, I think that it is a very good book for Korean learners.