Book review: 『錦繡』by Teru Miyamoto


Title: 『錦繡』(きんしゅう)
Author: Teru MIYAMOTO 宮本輝
Published by 新潮文庫
270 pages

First published in 1982, 『錦繡』is certainly one of Teru Miyamoto’s most popular novels. It was translated into English by Roger K. Thomas under the title Kinshu: Autumn Brocade, and into French, Le Brocart, by Maria Grey.


『錦繡』 is an epistolary novel (only composed of letters). Aki and Yasuaki were once a married couple. They meet by chance, ten years after their divorce and start to exchange letters.

『錦繡』belongs to these books that I loved so much, it is difficult to talk about them. Apart from “you must read it”, I don’t seem to find anything to say.

I cannot remember the last time a novel affected me so much. I kept thinking about the story and the characters even when I was not reading the book. I identified easily with the characters, and I was emotionally involved in the story right from the beginning. Some letters were so full of emotions, it often took me a while to go back to my real life after I had close the book.

This is a short novel, but there are some long descriptions and almost no dialogues. However, it was not as difficult to read as I expected, and it does not belong to the books that I find challenging in terms of Japanese level. Being able to read『錦繡』in Japanese is extremely rewarding to me. I had a look at the French translation (1994) (you can read the first pages on the publisher’s website), and I personally don’t like how it is written in French. I am glad that I can read Teru Miyamoto in Japanese.

I heartily recommend 『錦繡』, I cannot imagine someone reading and not loving this book. If you are not sure whether your Japanese level allows you to read this novel in Japanese, you could read in parallel: use the English translation to help you understand the text, while still enjoying the original version in Japanese.

Book review: 『草花たちの静かな誓い』by Teru Miyamoto


Title: 『草花たちの静かな誓い』(くさばなたちの しずかな ちかい)
Author: Teru MIYAMOTO 宮本輝
Published by 集英社文庫
464 pages

Teru Miyamoto is an author of literary fiction who won the Akutagawa Prize in 1978 for his novel 『螢川』. Some of his works are translated into English and French.『草花たちの静かな誓い』was published by 集英社 in 2016 and the 文庫 edition came out this year (2020).


I haven’t read much literary fiction in Japanese, but 『草花たちの静かな誓い』is definitely one of my favourite books in this area. I loved the characters and the story, but what I enjoyed the most is the realism of the setting, the precision of the descriptions and how well Teru Miyamoto has pictured the atmosphere of the Californian coast.

The story takes place in Rancho Palos Verdes, a place where rich people build expensive houses with spacious gardens and a view on the ocean. To be honest, I had never heard of Palos Verdes before reading this book, so it was very interesting to learn about this place through the perspective of a Japanese protagonist.

The author presents a californian way of life to a Japanese readership who might not be familiar to it. Our protagonist describes everything and points out details that are different from Japanese customs and habits. There is an emphasis, for example, on the cosmopolitan nature of the population. As such, reading 『草花たちの静かな誓い』 felt very different from reading a novel set in the United States but written by an American author.

While the descriptions allow the reader to have a clear vision of where the story takes place, they also give the novel a slow beginning. However, as soon as the plot starts to unfold, the novel becomes really engrossing. I read the first 100 pages very slowly, but then, I could not put the book down.

To sum up, I would say that 『草花たちの静かな誓い』has two layers. It is a novel on Palos Verdes and depicts the slow-paced lifestyle in this luxurious coastal city. But at the same time, it develops an engrossing plot that reads like a mystery novel. I would even say that the plot was more interesting than many other mystery novels I have read.

This is the first book I read by Teru Miyamoto, but he is now one of my favourite Japanese authors. You will certainly see other reviews appearing on this blog! I plan on reading his earlier writings, especially 『螢川』.