Book review: 『満願』 by Honobu Yonezawa


Cover of 満願

Title: 『満願』  (まんがん)
Author: Honobu Yonezawa (米澤穂信)
Published by 新潮文庫
422 pages

This is a collection of short stories that got the first place in three different rankings for mystery novels: 週刊文春ミステリーベスト10, このミステリーがすごい!and ミステリが読みたい


Great mysteries

The short stories in this book are really great, and they all have a surprising ending.

When it comes to mystery fiction, I prefer when there is a tension building up throughout the story, and I don’t mind that much if the end is not that great, as long as the whole story was suspenseful.

The short stories in 『満願』 are the opposite. Some are rather slow-paced and focus more on the characters involved in the case than the case itself. And while the end is always good and surprising, some stories felt a bit long to me.

This is true for the first short story, 夜警 (やけい) for example. I did not love it at first because it did not feel like reading a mystery novel, but the end really caught me by surprise. 万灯 (まんとう), which might be the best short story of the book, was similarly quite slow and not really the kind of stories I wanted to read, event though the end was very good.

Not easy to identify with the protagonists

What all these short stories have in common is that they are told by a first-person narrator. I found that I had a hard time identifying with the protagonist-narrator or the other characters of the stories. Sometimes, I just could not understand why characters would make certain choices or act like they do. This is especially true for 柘榴 (ざくろ), which puzzled me a little. Similarly, I had difficulties feeling involved in the characters of 満願 (まんがん), the last short story of the book.

I find that the capacity for the reader to identify with protagonists of mystery novels is part of the thrill. You end up thinking “this could have happened to me” or “I would have done the same in this situation and end up in the same mess”. So not being able to feel close to the characters somewhat affected my experience with the stories.

Favourite short stories

While I overall liked all the stories, there are some that I truly loved. I found 死人宿 to be very engrossing because it feels like reading a detective story. And my favourite story is by far 関守. I found it so good, I would be happy to read this kind of stories every day. It is only based on one long dialogue and is overall an engrossing investigation. It also has a kind of tension building up and an excellent end as well.


I think that the short stories of 『満願』 are all excellent, but because I could not feel close to most of the characters, I did not enjoy the book as much as most people. The short story 関守 however, is one my favourite reads of the year.

Illustration inspired by 万灯: 「ボイシャク村の様相は、バングラデシュの他の村に比べて特に変わっているわけではなかった。屋根は茅のような植物を束ねたもので葺かれており、壁材には竹が目立つ。葉の大きい木々が村のすぐ近くまで迫り、風に揺られている。」 (p.200)

Book Review: 『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA

I have finished 『リカーシブル』by Honobu YONEZAWA (米澤穂信), and with it, I have completed both my reading challenge for the year and my goals for the month of December.

A novel with various themes


Haruka, her mother and younger brother Satoru have to move back to the mother’s native little town. While Haruka, who starts her first year of middle-school, tries to make her place in the class hierarchy, a growing feeling of uneasiness will change her priorities. There is something strange with this town and Satoru is acting weird: Haruka will investigate.

This mystery novel is quite long (+500 pages) and encompasses a wide range of topics. First, the daily preoccupations of the protagonist Haruka. As a transfer student, she has to find her place in the class hierarchy and make friends. We also soon find out that her family is not what it seems and Haruka has to find her place in it too.

Another important point is the town itself: the town is slowly dying, many stores have shut down, the school is half empty… the adults fight their own battle by lobbying to make the highway come to their town. This is an important theme of the novel.

Finally, there is a legend attached to the town, or more precisely, a folks’ tale that all the inhabitants know of. This is a major topic, and it lays at the heart of the mystery.

An intriguing mystery

To be honest, folk tales, traditions and legends are not what appeals the most to me when it comes to Japanese culture. It interests me, but I would not like to read a whole novel involving deities or legendary characters. If I had known that this topic was so present in the novel, I would certainly not have bought it.

As a result, I was not fully focused when reading the passages about this particular folks’ tale (and they were the most difficult to read, too, which didn’t help), and this is a shame because a good part of the mystery is linked to it.

In spite of it, I enjoyed reading this book very much. The mystery is so intriguing that it kept me reading despite my lack of interest in certain passages and a general feeling that the book lacked real tension or real danger.

I would say that the author really managed to create a feeling of uneasiness: the atmosphere of the town, some people acting weird, it always looks like something is not quite right. This, and the sympathy I had for Haruka, kept me engrossed in the book until the end.


『リカーシブル』is a great mystery that involves a lot of topics and reads a little like a detective novel: the reader, as well as Haruka, has all the elements in hands to solve the mystery. In addition to being an intriguing novel, 『リカーシブル』is also a very consistent one: everything falls into place in the end, and the attentive reader can certainly solve the mystery by himself.

I must admit that I haven’t fully taken advantage of this feature. As I said, some passages bored me, and I haven’t paid enough attention to details. This is a shame really!