Wednesday 29 September 2021

The Woman In The Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura Trans. @japanonmymind @FaberBooks #TheWomanInThePurpleSkirt #BookReview #TranslatedFiction


The Woman in the Purple Skirt is being watched. 

Someone is following her, always perched just out of sight, monitoring which buses she takes; what she eats; whom she speaks to. 

But this invisible observer isn't a stalker - it's much more complicated than that.

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura was published by Faber on 3 June 2021 and is translated from the Japanese by Lucy North. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

What a fascinating and enthralling story this is. Just over two hundred pages long, with fairly large print, I read this one in just one day. It is one of those stories that draws you in, you never quite know just what is happening. The narrator is anonymous, and the woman in the purple skirt herself is an enigmatic and mysterious figure who delivers surprise after surprise. 

The reader learns that the narrator is 'the woman in the yellow cardigan', and it is clear that she is entranced by the woman who sits on the same park bench every day, eating bakery goods and wearing a purple skirt.  Purple skirt is well-known in the neighbourhood, she is a constant source of amusement for the local children who make a game of tapping her on the shoulder and then running away. For the woman in the yellow cardigan, she is so much more.  She is an obsession, she cannot stop herself from watching, at a distance. She knows everything about the woman's life. The reader is never quite sure if purple skirt is aware of yellow cardigan. I think she actually is!

The story is voyeuristic and becomes quite creepy and chilling. As yellow cardigan engineers, in her own, not so subtle way, a job for purple cardigan in a local hotel, their real names are revealed, and the characters become far more real. The workplace setting is incredibly well suited to the style of the story, as both women work in low-paid jobs, trying to create their own place in an environment that is initially unwelcoming and quite hostile. 

This is a difficult book to review. It's unusual, unique and quite startling at times. It's easy to read, but it can make the reader feel uneasy. Beautifully imagined, with stark and sparse prose but hard hitting at the same time. Recommended by me.

Natsuko Imamura was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1980.

Her fiction has won various prestigious Japanese literary prizes, including the Noma Literary New Face Prize, the Mishima Yukio Prize and the Akutagawa Prize.

She lives in Osaka with her husband and daughter. 

Lucy North is a British translator of Japanese fiction and non-fiction. 

Her translations include Toddler Hunting and Other Stories, as yet the sole book of fiction in English by Taeko Kono, and Record of a Night Too Brief, a collection of stories by Hiromi Kawakami. 

Her fiction translations have appeared in Granta, Words Without Borders, and The Southern Review and in several anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories and The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature. 

She lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

Twitter @japanonmymind

No comments:

Post a Comment