Monday, March 4, 2024

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop: Satoshi Yagisawa

First two paragraphs of the book:

From late summer to early spring the next year, I lived at the Morisaki Bookshop. I spent that period of my life in the spare room on the second floor of the store, trying to bury myself in books. The cramped room barely got any light, and everything felt damp. It smelled constantly of musty old books. 

But I will always remember the days I spent there. Because that's where my real life began. And I know, without a doubt, that if not for those days, the rest of my life would have been bland, monotonous, and lonely.

Takaka and her boyfriend work at the same business. One night they go out for dinner and he announces that he is going to marry another woman, who also works at the same workplace. This is weird for two reasons. First, Takaka has no clue that Hideaki has been dating this other woman, and thought she had a serious relationship with him. Second, she doesn't object or even question him about this; she just says "Oh, that's good," and calmly leaves. She expresses none of her feelings of surprise or rejection.

Takaka is miserable; she still has to work with Hideaki, she can't eat, and she loses lots of weight. She eventually quits her job and spends all day sleeping in her apartment. After a few weeks of this her uncle Satoru calls her and asks her to come work part time for him in his bookshop; he will provide a place for her to live, over the bookshop. She can save on rent until she decides to go back to work. She reluctantly agrees, because he really needs her help.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section covers the time that Takaka lives at the bookshop; the second takes place months later, after her mental state has improved and she has found another job. Uncle Satoru again calls on Takaka, but this time it is because his wife Momoko who left him 5 years earlier has returned with no explanation. The story is as much about family and relationships with people as it is about books and reading.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons:

  • I liked the picture of life in Japan, the bookshop setting, and Takaka's growing love of books. The neighborhood she moves to has many bookshops all in the same area. According to the translator's note, there is an actual neighborhood of book stores in Jimbochu. The translator's notes are very good. 
  • Takaka not only does not express her own needs in her romantic relationship, she also has trouble opening up to anyone and accepting the quirks of others. Her interactions with people at the bookshop and in her new relationships help her to improve in this area.
  • The story is mostly upbeat, and it has a good and realistic ending.

The cover of this book is wonderful, but I was frustrated by it because it shows two very cute cats, but there are no cats in the story.

I read this book for the Japanese Literary Challenge and for the Bookish Books Challenge.


Publisher:   Harper Perennial, 2023 (orig. pub. 2010)
Translator:  Eric Ozawa
Length:       150 pages
Format:       Trade Paper
Setting:       Japan
Genre:        Fiction
Source:       Purchased September 2023.


Cath said...

Lot of people reading this one at the moment, or so it seems to me! I shall grab it if I see it at the library but probably would not buy it.

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds really enjoyable, Tracy! I haven't read a lot of fiction set in Japan - not nearly enough - and the bookshop setting has a lot of appeal, too. About the cover? I don't understand why some covers aren't just a bit more reflective of the stories. In my opinion, they ought to 'go with' the story.

TracyK said...

Cath, I would agree that you don't need to buy it. I have a thing for Japanese stories and it fit the Bookish Books theme, so I wanted to get a copy sooner rather than later. I did like the story a lot. The Japanese fiction I have read has a different feel that I like.

TracyK said...

I liked the book a lot, Margot. And of course the bookshop setting was fun. I wasn't the only one that wasn't happy about a cover that shows cats with no cats in the story, but I did not buy it for the cats, so really it was OK.

Sam said...

This does sound good. I am, and always will be, a sucker for books set in bookstores. Every one I spot gets at least a quick look and some consideration, but so many of him have disappointed me in recent months, that I'm being more careful.

Kathy's Corner said...

I like the plot of this book because people often suffer a breakup or a disappointment in life and they can't always pick themselves right back up. And so there is a realism to this novel as we see how the young woman is eventually able to get back out there in the world.

TracyK said...

Sam, I also am attracted to bookshop settings but I have noticed that a lot of books are coming out with that setting now, and it just seems that the publishers are lazy or exploiting their popularity. I did buy this one on a whim (and I liked the cover) but it worked well for me. I had a lot of sympathy with a young woman who had problems expressing herself or even recognizing her own needs.

TracyK said...

I agree with all you say, Kathy. The story was very straightforward and the ending felt right. I think there is (or will be) a sequel and I hope it is just as good.

CLM said...

The editor usually provides suggestions for the cover art (including character descriptions, if appropriate) so it seems odd to me there would be cats on the cover if not mentioned in the book. It is a cute cover, however! Overall, just goes to prove my point that publishers are exploiting our love of books and bookstores -- still, there are worse things to be exploited about! :)

TracyK said...

Constance, Some book covers seem to have no relation to the content of the book, so at least this one does well in that area. And I did not buy it for the cats, so it really did not bother me until I finished the book... and said, Where are those cats from? Next door I guess.

I had wondered how cover design is planned. With or without the cats, I will keep this book if only for its cover.

thecuecard said...

I like its Japan setting and the area of bookstores mentioned. It sounds good and I'm interested in how it ends. I will see if the library has it. Has this author written others?

TracyK said...

Susan, I did some checking and the only thing I could find was that there will be a sequel to this book, titled More Days at the Morisaki Bookshop. Supposed to come out this summer. I will read it for sure but not rush to buy it immediately... especially since I am not buying any books (except ebooks, which I never spend much on) until September.