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Book review: 『本を読む人だけが手にするもの』 by Kazuhiro Fujihara

Introduction

Title: 『本を読む人だけが手にするもの』
Author: Kazuhiro FUJIHARA (藤原和博)
Published by ちくま文庫
296 pages

Review

I will say it plainly: I didn’t like this book. Reading it was a waste of time, the author kept bragging about himself, I haven’t learned anything, and I felt insulted by the author.

“I am such a great person” type of book

The point of the book is to show the importance of reading, I guess… But to be honest, it rather looks like the whole point of the book is to show how great the author is because he reads so many books and achieved so many things and has so many great ideas to improve education.

I haven’t read a lot of self-improvement books in Japanese, but Japanese authors always seem to brag about how many books they read, how many blog posts they write, how many video they upload and so on. I find it annoying, but if the author is creating great content that helps me getting more productive, it’s fine. In this book, the author just boasts about his exploits, but does not do anything for me.

As a blogger myself, I am certainly impressed by authors who upload a blog post every single day, but as a reader, I felt that the author’s reading habits sounded a little too impressive to be true. For example, the author says that when someone talks about or recommends a book in a conversation, he will buy this book the very same day and:

そして、できたら翌日には読み終え、メールですぐに感想を送る。3行でも5行でもいいので、相手が驚くようなスピードで感想を送るのである。(p.174)

Well… good for you I suppose 🤷‍♀️

Overall, the author talks a lot about personal anecdotes, but it does not bring anything to the book. It just feels like the author wants to talk about himself rather than talk about what reading can bring you.

Nothing new in this book

I agree with a lot of things that the author says about reading. His main points are that reading books can help you forge your own opinion and think by yourself. It also enriches your experience, because we cannot experience everything in our life, and reading brings you the experience of the author.

Well, to me, these points seem obvious. The author presents them like his big discoveries about reading, but I was hoping that we would start from here and develop on these topics. However, there is not much more in the book apart from personal episodes. I haven’t learned anything new.

The author also seems to think that books are the only way to learn about a topic and forge one’s own opinion about it. With so many media accessible today, how can one say that books are the only way to position oneself on a topic? It’s nonsense. The author says that “people who don’t read books” have a reduced vision of topical issues (p.61), and I can’t agree with that 🙅‍♀️

Insulting

I also found the author to be quite insulting at several occasions. I don’t know why, but the author has decided to oppose books and video games, reading and spending time on your phone. This is so reductive and simplistic. I mean, I read books, and I play video games, and I think that having several hobbies is a good thing. But the author is classifying and ranking hobbies, stating that some are better and some are useless.

In particular, the author seems to profoundly despise people who play games on their phone. I wish that the author had downloaded some mobile games and try them before saying that. Even on mobile, a lot of games are just incredibly entertaining, clever and beautiful.

The author also classifies people into “people who read books” (the good ones obviously) and “people who play games” (the bad lot). He likes to criticise people who play games or spend time on their phone in the subway. I mean, people are tired of their day at work and they chill out with a stupid mobile game, what’s wrong with that? They might be highly successful in their work, they might even be avid readers at other times. Or they might not, and that’s fine, why would you go around judging people?

Oh, but I forgot… the author is capable of reading books on his way home after drinking. Talking about literary fiction:

どんなに遅くなって眠くても、接待で飲み過ぎて酔っぱらっていても、帰りの電車のなかでは作品を読みふけった。(p.110)

So yes, if you are playing on your phone in the subway instead of reading literature, I guess you are just not worth it in the author’s mind. I felt directly insulted, because I don’t often read in the subway. Mainly because I don’t skim through my books like the author, I like to get immersed in the story. This is not something I can do in the subway with the constant announcements and people talking around me. So yes, subway=phone to me.

Conclusion

I love reading, and I hate how the author talks about reading books as just a way to get better, to get more productive, to become a successful person and to build a better society. He never talks about reading for pleasure, he never talks about genre fiction. Reading to get better and improve yourself is fine, but reading is also a hobby, and if you read only with another purpose in mind than the book itself, you might be missing something. Overall, I find that the author has a very reductive view of what a book is, what a novel is, what a video game is and what a mobile phone is. There are interesting parts in this book, but the author’s tendency to oppose the (intelligent) people who read books and the (stupid) people who don’t made this book a complete no to me.

I will leave you on a last quote from this author:

ゲームをやっている間はほとんどアタマを使っていない。p.35 🤦‍♀️

Book review: 『探偵さえいなければ』 by Tokuya Higashigawa

Introduction

Title: 『探偵さえいなければ』(たんていさえいなければ)
Author: Tokuya HIGASHIGAWA (東川篤哉)
Published by 光文社文庫
292 pages

『探偵さえいなければ』is the eighth and most recent book in the Ikagawa city series (烏賊川市シリーズ). This book is a collection of short stories.

Review

I love humour in crime fiction, but it is always hard to find good humoristic books about murder that both make the reader smile or laugh and deliver a good crime story. 『探偵さえいなければ』 is just that. It is a delightful read that was very funny, plays with the codes of crime fiction but still offers suspenseful stories about solving a murder or get away with it.

The book is a collection of five short stories that take place in Ikagawa, a place where there always seems to be a murder on the making somewhere. Most stories feature detective Ukai who might well become one of my favourite fictional detectives. As an avid reader of murder stories, I have encountered a lot of different detectives, but the “bad” detective who somehow manages to solves cases in spite of his questionable deduction skills… that feels new and exciting!! 

There is a lot of humour in the stories, from Ukai’s harebrained deductions to perilous alibis settings, there are numerous comical scenes and effects. All short stories were equally good and I was completely engrossed in each of them.

Unfortunately, I haven’t read the other books of the series before reading this one. It is totally fine to read 『探偵さえいなければ』without having read the previous books, but I would still recommend to read the series in order as the author does hint at some previous cases and there are recurring characters.

This book belongs to my best reads this year, and I will definitely read the whole Ikagawa series!

Book haul!

I know that it is a little early for a end-of-the-year book haul, but I don’t care 😈. I have ordered 15+ books on Amazon and received them a couple weeks ago. Here they are:

Mystery and crime fiction

『密室の鍵貸します』and 『密室に向かって撃て!』 by Tokuya HIGASHIGAWA (東川篤哉)

These two books are the first and second volumes in the Ikagawa city (烏賊川市) series. This year, I read the last book of the series and loved it so much that I decided to read the whole series in order. There are 8 books in total.

『AX』 by Kotaro ISAKA (伊坂小太郎)

This is a novel that I want to read since I first saw it. I didn’t want to buy the big format though and had to wait for the pocket edition to come out. I have only read one book by Kotaro Isaka and loved it, though reading it was also a strange experience. Since then, I have been wanting to read more books by this author but never got around to it.

『幻夏』 by Ai Oota (太田愛)

I know nothing about this book, but I keep seeing it on Amazon, and it has very good reviews. It is quite long (almost 500 pages), but the story looks great.

『祈りの幕が下りる時』 by Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)

This is the tenth and last book in the Kaga series (加賀恭一郎シリーズ). The first book I read in Japanese was the first book of the series 『卒業』, and I have continued the series over the years. Finishing the series will feel like an accomplishment for sure!

『聖女の救済』 by Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)

Fifth book in the Galileo series (ガリレオシリーズ), this one has been translated into English under the title Salvation of a Saint. The Galileo series does not mean as much to me as the Kaga series, but I love it, and I am quite excited about this one because it is a novel (three of the first four books were collections of short stories).

Literary fiction and medical fiction

『星々の悲しみ』by Teru MIYAMOTO (宮本輝)

This is the only book of literary fiction I bought, so I chose one by my favourite author so far (of literary fiction). Teru Miyamoto has written so many books that it was hard to chose one. I wanted to read his more recent novels, but they were not available as pocket books so I will have to wait.

『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro NAKAYAMA (中山祐次郎)

While this is a novel, this book is praised for its realistic depiction of the life of an intern. There is a second volume entitled 『逃げるな新人外科医』. I have been reading some medical nonfiction in English lately and it made me want to try reading in this field in Japanese too. I fear there will be medical terms that I don’t know, but at the same time, I expect them to be mostly in kanji, which would make them easier to guess and remember.

Non fiction

『あのころ』by Momoko SAKURA (さくらももこ)

This is a collection of essays by Momoko Sakura about her childhood. I believe that there are three books in this format. I already read and loved 『まるこだった』and thought it was time to jump into another one.

『殺人犯はそこにいる』by Kiyoshi SHIMIZU (清水潔)

I am very excited for this one, because I believe I never read true crime in my life, so this will be a first for me. This year, I read a book on death penalty, 『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』, that went over some cases that have shaped criminal law in Japan. This made me want to learn more about famous criminal cases and this book looks like a good start. It goes over the North Kanto Serial Young Girl Kidnapping and Murder Case that started in 1979.

『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi TAKAHASHI (高橋隆一)

Here again, it is 『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』 that made me want to read more about judicial penalties and court ruling. I am particularly interested in the decision process that leads to life imprisonment or death penalty, and it looks like this is a topic that will be present in this book. (edit: I have read this book already, and it was not at all on death penalty vs life imprisonment. Overall, I was disappointed in the content…)

Others

『恋する寄生虫』 by Sugaru MIAKI (三秋縋)

I was impressed by another Miaki’s book that I read recently and enjoyed very much, even though this is not my usual kind of reads. I decided to read another one and chose the author’s best known novel. I was tempted to read the manga adaptation, but it is three volumes and my order was already far more voluminous than planned.

『ちびまる子ちゃんの慣用句教室』 and 『ちびまる子ちゃんの漢字使い分け教室』

These two books belong to a series of books for children called 満点ゲットシリーズ. The series covers a wide range of topics that are mostly subjects that children learn in school. It uses the character and fictional world of Maruko chan. I already have the one on honorifics 『敬語教室』, and it explained things so much better than any textbooks for language learners I have read… I think this series can be useful for Japanese learners, so I wanted to try a couple more topics before writing about them on my blog.

『自分を好きになりたい』by Pon Watanabe (わたなべぽん)

The other manga I read by this author were mainly on consumption habits and house keeping, but in every book, she talked with sincerity about her own experience and about accepting oneself as one is. I wanted to read 『自分を好きになりたい』 for some time because it has very good reviews and I definitely love Pon Watanabe’s vision of life.

That’s it for this post, but there is actually something else in my book haul that will be the core of my reading challenge for 2021. I am super excited about it, and it is hard to not just start right away, but I do have a whole plan for 2021, and I am sure it will be a lot of fun! I will talk about it in December, so stay tuned!

Book review: 『蹴りたい背中』 by Risa Wataya (綿矢りさ)

Introduction

Title: 『蹴りたい背中』 (けりたいせなか)
Author: Risa WATAYA (綿矢りさ)
Published by 河出文庫
183 pages

This is Risa Wataya’s second and best known novel who won her the Akutagawa Prize at the age of 19.

Review

My previous experience with Risa Wataya’s books has not been exciting. I read 『勝手にふるえてろ』in translation but remember not being impressed by it. More recently, I read 『私をくいとめて』 in Japanese and, similarly, did not find it very interesting.

Consequently, and even though it won the Akutagawa Prize, I was not expecting to love 『蹴りたい背中』. It was thus a pleasant surprise to discover that it has much more vivacity than the other two books I read, and I enjoyed it enough.

What I loved the most in the book is how the two protagonists are true loners who don’t fit in their environment. What they do is weird for the society, but not in the cool way of being eccentric and breaking social conventions, more in a pathetic and helpless sort of way that makes them authentic.

I feel like I have read tons of stories where the protagonists are supposedly marginalised persons who do not have friends and do not fit in society. But of course, they still manage to make friends in the course of the story, and you realise that they are actually very easy people to be with. So why were they loners in the first place? It looks like the author wants to give their characters the romantic aura that goes with solitude without wanting to make them unattractive characters.

On the contrary, I loved the complexity of Hatsu’s personality and how Risa Wataya stays faithful to her characters all along. They don’t suddenly become agreeable, plain and mainstream characters just because they met the right person. In 『蹴りたい背中』, the main protagonists certainly haven’t met the right person in each other and this encounter does not suddenly change their personality. They just have to deal with each other while still being themselves, and this hard-to-define relationship is what made the story truly interesting to me.

The structure of the book and how the story evolves share some similarities with 『私をくいとめて』, but it has much more energy, depth and audacity. In comparison, 『私をくいとめて』 looks like a pale, grown-up copy of 『蹴りたい背中』.

So overall, I enjoyed 『蹴りたい背中』 much more than I thought I would. Reading this book did not make me want to throw myself in another Risa Wataya’s book though, so I guess that my general feeling concerning this author has not changed much: I can see why people love her books, but it is not for me.

Book review: 『ガリレオの苦悩』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『ガリレオの苦悩』 (がりれおのくのう)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
p376.

This is the fourth book in the Galileo series. It is a collection of five short stories. Four of the short stories were first published in various magazines and one was written for the book edition, which was first published in 2008.

As far as I know, this book has not been translated into English.

Review

As usual, I found the cases in this book very entertaining, but to be honest, this book might be the one I enjoyed reading the least so far. (I am reading the whole Galileo series in order).

The first short story introduces detective Kaoru Utsumi who now works with Kusanagi. I read Salvation of a Saint some years ago in translation – which is the next book of the series and features Kaoru – but I did not remember the character of Kaoru well. As a result, I was very surprised by this addition and even more surprised (disappointed might be the correct word) to see her take Kusanagi’s place.

In the five short stories, what used to be the duo Kusanagi-Yukawa is now the duo Kaoru-Yukawa. It is always Kaoru who asks for Yukawa’s help, accompanies him in his experiences and discusses the case with him. Kusanagi is very absent from the case and does not seem to be doing anything. Worse, he appears as a stubborn and not very good detective in the first story, contrary to the zealous and bright Kaoru.

This might be an unpopular opinion (and the next books might make me change my mind), but I don’t like Kaoru. There is nothing wrong with this character, but I just think that she is an unnecessary addition. I have read three books (one novel and 10 short stories) with the duo Kusanagi-Yukawa, so losing this established duo is very unsettling. Readers who follow a series do so because they want to see their favourite detective again. The duo of detectives is such an established pattern in crime fiction, that changing the protagonists midway feels like a betrayal.

I found this addition so strange and out of place, that I checked online. On Wikipedia, it is said that the character of Kaoru was added for the television… Well, it makes sense. I am quoting Wikipedia:

ドラマ化にあたって「湯川のパートナーに女性のオリジナルキャラクターを使いたい」という製作者側の要望に東野が「先に自分がその人物を小説に登場させ、その人物の名前を使用する」という条件で快諾し、続編である「落下る」以降の原作にも登場。(source)

(「落下る」is the first short story in the book.)

I never watched the drama, so this is something that I was not aware of, but Kaoru appears right from episode 1 in the TV series (which is the first short story of the first book, and obviously she had not yet been created at the time). So for people who only watched the drama, the main duo has always been Kaoru-Yukawa… strange!

I doubt that Higashino would have created Kaoru if it weren’t for this request. This also explains why Kaoru has taken Kusanagi’s place instead of just working with him and Yukawa together as a trio.

I am okay with TV dramas changing things to please the audience or to make things more interesting. But here, the problem is not that the TV series departs from the books, but that the books change their line to fit with the series. I understand that Higashino wanted to create Kaoru himself, but I would have preferred to continue with Kusanagi in the books and let the TV series do whatever they wanted.

I am sure I will get used to the new duo in the end, but it was a bit of a shock in this book. I also hope that there won’t be too much of a sentimental relation between Yukawa and Kaoru because I am not usually a fan of romantic elements in detective fiction. We’ll see…

To talk more about the short stories themselves, I found them very different from the somewhat rigid pattern of the two first books where Kusanagi was the protagonist leading the investigation, and Yukawa was here to help solving the scientific part of the puzzle. In 『ガリレオの苦悩』, we find short stories were Yukawa is the protagonist and we learn more about him.

The last short story also had an interesting pattern, much similar to Christie’s the ABC murders.

October wrap up and Nonfiction November

I took a break from the blog in October, and I read less than I usually do. I only read two books in Japanese, but one of these is a real achievement to me.

『罪の声』 by Takeshi Shiota (塩田武士)

This is one of the most (if not the most) difficult books I read this year (the other one would be Miri Yu’s Tokyo Ueno Station), and it is also the longest (535 pages!).

I had ordered it because the obi says 昭和最大の未解決事件を圧倒的のリアリティで描いた大ベストセラー! and this kind of advertisement is enough to make me buy a book… When I received the copy and saw how thick it was, I shied away from it, and it stayed on my TBR for several months.

Overall, the novel was much easier to read than I expected. I would say that the general language level is similar to the majority of mystery novels that I am reading. However, there are some passages that I found very challenging, and the story is very complex in itself with a lot of names to remember.

I will talk more about the content in my book review, but this fiction is inspired by the real Glico-Morinaga case, an extorsion case that took place in 1984-1985. You don’t need to know about the real case to read the novel, because several passages go over the different stages of it… and these descriptions were not easy to read in Japanese to me.

I also counted more than 50 names… Even though I wrote a list of characters, I did not write sufficient information for each of them, and I had to re-read some passages to refresh my memory about who was who (it took me almost one month to read the book – I guess that if you read this book in a week, you won’t forget as much as I did between two reading sessions). I can read comfortably in Japanese now, but there is something that I still cannot do: skim through the pages I have already read to find a specific passage. If I only glance over a paragraph, I get zero piece of information from it. I need to read the text, I cannot just take a quick look at it. So having to go back to previous chapters took me forever and was quite arduous too.

But I made it to the end, and this book is the one I am the most proud of finishing this year!

I cannot wait to watch the movie:

『リバース』by Kanae Minato (湊かなえ)

Another book that I had on my TBR for some time. If I were to make a list of my favourite books in Japanese, Kanae Minato’s 『豆の上で眠る』would be on it. As a consequence, I was confident that I would love 『リバース』, but when I first started months ago now, I gave up after 50 pages. I found the beginning very slow and could not get into the story.

I started it again this month, and yes, once again, I found the beginning quite boring. I managed to go through the first chapter, and things started getting more and more interesting. Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel, even if it did not have the impact that 『豆の上で眠る』 had on me. Looking at Amazon’s ratings, I see that 『リバース』 has slightly better ratings than 『豆の上で眠る』, so I guess that which story touches you most is personal.

Nonfiction November

This is the first time that I participate in Nonfiction November (or any reading challenge), so I am very excited about it. The idea is just to read more nonfiction in November than you would usually do. If you read just one book of nonfiction it’s okay, but of course, you can read as many books as you want. There are four prompts to help you pick your books, so I will stick to them and try to read 4 Japanese nonfiction books in November!

For more information about Nonfiction November, check out the video announcement by abookolive.

Prompts and books:

TIME – 『あのころ』by Momoko SAKURA. This is a collection of essays about the author’s childhood, so it seems perfect for the “time” prompt!

MOVEMENT – 『裁判者失格』 by Ryuichi TAKAHASHI (高橋隆一). This book is, I believe, about a judge’s inner struggles and what lays behind a court ruling. The subtitle on this book made me think that it could fit the “movement” prompt: 法と正義の間で揺れ動く苦悩と葛藤, though I recognise that it is a bit of a stretch here.

BUZZ – 『嫌われる勇気』 by Ichiro KISHIMI (岸見一郎) and Fumitake KOGA (古賀史健). With more than 3700 ratings on Amazon, this book is perfect for “buzz”.

DISCOVERY – 『岩田さん』edited by Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞). Satoru Iwata is known for his inventive projects and new ideas that have marked the game industry, so it will be my “discovery” book.

I only chose books that are on the short side (all are less than 300 pages), so I hope I will complete this November challenge and have time to sneak in one fiction too.

Blog Schedule

I am late on posting my book reviews and I really want to post all the book reviews of books that I read in 2020 before the New Year. Sadly, I think that I will discontinue my news category “Inhae reads the news in Japanese” because it really takes me too much time to write it. I will be posting book reviews instead for the rest of the year, and maybe start a new series altogether for 2021.

Book review: 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』by Sugaru Miaki

Introduction

Title: 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』
Author: Sugaru MIAKI (三秋縋)
Published by メディアワークス文庫
364 pages.

Sugaru Miaki is best known for the novel 『恋する寄生虫』 that has been adapted into a manga by ホタテユウキ and will get a film adaptation in 2021.

Review

22 year-old Mizuha kills a highschool student when drunk driving. However, his young victim has the power to put off distressful events, and Mizuha is ready to do anything to make up for the accident.

It took me a while to get into the novel, but once I did, I loved it more and more as the story unfolded.

I did not like the beginning of the novel because it had some similarities with Norwegian Wood, a book that I did not like despite its being such a famous novel. One thing that I was not a fan of in Norwegian Wood is that the protagonist is a rather dull and uninteresting character, yet all the women of the story feel attracted to him. Similarly, Mizuha is the kind of person who usually goes unnoticed but he still manages to draw the attention of his schoolmate and his beautiful neighbour. Some topics like correspondence or suicide were also similar to Murakami’s novel.

However, when the story kicks off after the car accident, the novel takes an unexpected turn of events. I thought it would mainly be a story about youth, love and depression (a little like Norwegian Wood), but the story suddenly turns into a thriller-like scenario with a revenge theme, mild gore scenes and some suspense.

The end was also surprising, changing tone again to come back to a more romantic line of story, but introducing some heavy topics like domestic violence and school bullying.

Overall, I find that this story was engrossing and entertaining, but at the same time, it also made me feel depressed at times. The end was not what I was expecting, and the book turned out not to be the relaxing read I thought it would be.

In the afterwords, the author writes: 『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』は、二度と抜け出せない穴に落ちた人の物語でした。しかし僕はそれを単に薄暗い話としてではなく、元気の出る話として書いたつもりでいます。とてもそうは見えないかもしれませんけれど、でも、そうなのです。(p.364) I agree that it does not look like it at all… At least, I did not have this impression and felt quite sad when I closed the book.

『いたいのいたいの、とんでゆけ』 is a beautiful love story that deals with heavy topics and borrows from other genres like thriller and speculative fiction. It might not be a 薄暗い話 but it is not rose either. I do recommend it, but it might not be the best read if you feel depressed at the moment. Despite what the author says, I would not describe this novel as “元気の出る話”.

I will definitely try to get my hands on 『恋する寄生虫』!

Book review: 『六番目の小夜子』 by Riku Onda

Introduction

Title: 『六番目の小夜子』 (ろくばんめの さよこ)
Author: Riku ONDA (恩田陸)
Published by 新潮文庫
339 pages

Riku Onda is a prolific author who won the Naoki Prize in 2017 for her novel 『蜜蜂と遠雷』.

『六番目の小夜子』 is her debut novel.

Review

『六番目の小夜子』 has overall positive reviews on Amazon, but it is hard for me to understand why… Maybe some reviews are from readers who love Riku Onda and enjoyed reading her debut novel, not as much for the book itself but as a pilgrimage to their favourite author’s starting point.

The setting of the story is a highschool and our protagonists are a bunch friends who go through their third and last year together. The story spans a whole year.

There is a mysterious tradition in this school, though… Once every three year, someone is chosen to incarnate “Sayoko”. Part of the mystery consists in guessing who is Sayoko and what exactly is her role.

The beginning of the book was very promising with the prologue explaining the rule of the wink murder game. It is a party game where a “murderer” and a “detective” are chosen. People then go on talking to each other and the “murderer” can wink at people to “kill” them. The victim waits a few seconds before fainting, and obviously, the detective has to find the murderer. Then the prologue says: 私達の学校のある『行事』は、ちょうどこのゲームに似ている。(…) 今、紹介したゲームの『犯人』にあたる者は、それでは『サヨコ』と呼ばれた。(p.8-9). I was so enthusiastic when I read this, I thought I was starting an exciting murder mystery. I cannot tell you what this Sayoko has to do in the novel, but I can tell you that: it is not going around killing people. I don’t understand why the prologue would make such a false advertisement. I cannot help but feeling deceived by it.

Overall, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the school tradition to choose a “Sayoko”, but in the end, it was much ado about nothing.

I also found strange that the novel went in different directions in terms of genre without really committing to any. It looks like a mystery novel, there are supernatural elements, some horror too and some romance elements among students. Towards the end, we end up with characters that are preoccupied by finding the truth behind this Sayoko thing and characters who are worried about who will go out with who before the end of the school year. I thought it was a strange mix.

Finally, as the story spans a whole year, there are jumps in time between each chapter. This is something that I am not a big fan of in general, but I found that it did not serve the story well in this particular novel. I constantly had the impression that the characters had moved forward when I hadn’t. When I felt a little involved in the story, there would be a jump in time and I would start to lose interest. One chapter in particular ends on a very dramatic event. Tension has built up, there is danger and suspense, but of all the sudden, we find ourselves months later and the aftermaths of the episode is told as a flashback. It was a weird feeling to be left in the middle of a dramatic scene and then realise that all the characters had moved on and didn’t care about it anymore.

The fact that the narration keeps changing its focus between the different protagonists also did not make me want to stick to the book. If I don’t particularly enjoy a story, the connection between me (as a reader) and the protagonist usually makes me want to continue to read. When the narration follows several characters, I don’t feel committed to one of them in particular, so there is not much left to keep me involved in the story.

Overall, I did not enjoy this book, even though I usually like school mysteries. This was a debut novel though, and I am interesting in reading other books by Riku Onda. I will certainly start with the Naoki prize winner 『蜜蜂と遠雷』.