Patriotism – Yukio Mishima (Book Review)


The image is explained by the fact the book has a white cover… oh well. This book was presented to me as an example of Japanese literature. Being described as ‘Nabokovian’ too, perhaps as a method of convincing me to try.

Shinji, a lieutenant in the Japanese army, arrives home to inform his wife that his friends have become mutineers. Due to his position in the army, he has been ordered to lead the attack against them.

Unwilling to slaughter his friends, Shinji decides that he must commit seppuku, and informing his wife of this, his wife decides to join him.

The book describes the last night the couple spend together before taking part in their mutually agreed upon ritual suicide.

The tension of the book was felt throughout, with the reader and characters being made fully aware of what was to come.

The whole feel of the short story is intense, and the attitude with which the characters face their death is with both bravery and sorrow.

The book is very well written for one so short. The writer manages to raise so many questions about the choices made by the characters. Their seemingly mundane activities before the event being doing with a gruesome level of normality. The act itself being described so graphically that you can almost feel it.

Being from a Western culture, the act of seppuku can often be quite staggering. When faced with the ‘honourable’ thing to do in battle, most Western armies agree to die by the hand of the enemy. In fact, deserting is a serious offence, and in the examples such as WW1, returning to safety meant returning to the gunfire of your previous allies.

In Japan, however, it seems more honourable to die by your own hands in the ritualistic way than to allow your enemies victory. It’s quite the opposite in terms of an ‘honourable death’ to what we expect, and so as a reflex the reaction is often one of disagreement: how can suicide be brave?

Yet strangely to myself, I felt that the way Shinji approached the event was certainly brave. The cold, sharp steel being just a fact to face up to. I don’t think I could do it… a slow and bloody death by a blade.

Overall the book was fantastic for it’s length. The author himself also dying by seppuku lends it a somewhat prophetic title and characteristic too.


Alex – Pierre Lemaitre (Book Review)


This was one of the choices for this months book club. Being a crime book, and assured that it doesn’t rely on a twist ending, I thought to give it a go. I usually avoid crime novels due to cliches after all…

Alex, a young woman, finds herself kidnapped and hanging in a cage from an abandoned warehouse ceiling; the abductor saying he only wants to watch her die.

Verhoeven is assigned to the case and must track down a girl who seems to have no connections to anyone, and who seemingly moves about France a lot.

A fairly simple premise, but a quite complex story-line as it gets going.

The crime in the book is described quite graphically, which though it could have worked, felt somewhat forced in the writing. I got the impression that I was supposed to be more shocked than I actually was (perhaps I am desensitised, but who isn’t today?)

Alex was a very interesting character, and by far my favourite in the novel. For a victim, she had none of the cliches that are common in crime novels, and I for one certainly appreciated that.

Verhoeven, however, did carry some cliches. Widowed, angry etc. But perhaps if I read more of Lemaitre’s books, I’d grow to like him more (being a recurring character).

The story-line was complicated and the ending very clever. In fact, it dawned on me what had happened at exactly the same time it did another character, which I felt was novelty: the writer had managed to keep me in the dark as much as the characters, despite knowing all the clues.

Overall, certainly a unique crime book, and for lovers of the genre, one I would recommend. Perhaps I will develop a love for crime fiction eventually, but until then, books like this certainly make an argument in favour of the genre to me.

Post Office – Charles Bukowski (Book Review)


I’m a bit of a fan of Bukowski’s poetry, though finding books of his is somewhat of a rarity. I stumbled across this in the ‘cult fiction’ section of my local bookshop.

Henry Chinaski is a low life loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial Post Office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks.

Jumping from one relationship to the next, and dropping work on a whim, Chinaski lives day-by-day life.

The novel itself is short, and a very quick read. There are lots of points throughout the book which are very funny too, with Chinaski’s cynical attitude towards the authority figures in his life, and the lack of love he shows to the women in his life.

The book is void of hope for consistency for Chinaski, but he doesn’t seek it either. His bosses annoy him; and sooner or later, his lovers do too. He wants to live a life of ease, without pressure, and where he can simply drink and bet on horses.

I would recommend the book to people who enjoy things from the beat generation where this definitely belongs, and those who are fans of Bukowski. His down-to-earth attitude to writing, often with brute honesty, is something we sometimes need reminded of.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami (Book Review)


I was supposed to buy this when it was first released, but ended up putting it off until a few weeks back. I’ve read some Murakami in the past, so wanted to give his latest a try:

Tsukuru Tazaki belonged a friendship group of five throughout secondary school, each of the other four having colours in their name. The group has unwritten rules to create a perfect community, and were successful in doing so.

Whilst at college in Tokyo, Tsukuru recieves a phone call from the group informing him he was out, but the reasons for this were unclear.

As an adult, Tsukuru is encouraged to discover what happened all those years ago.

The plot isn’t as simple as ‘he didn’t have a colour in his name’, in face, the lack of colour only made him feel insignificant: as though he was boring, and contributed nothing to his friendships, Colourless.

As the story unravels it becomes apparent quickly that the reasons for his exile were a lot more complicated than it first seems. The turmoil Tsukuru must go through in order to find this out, however, is at high cost.

The book was well written, like a lot of Murakami’s stuff, and left me thinking more than a few times. The characters are well constructed too.

The ending of the book was a little ambiguous, but left me wondering: perhaps we were only given insight to his ‘years of pilgrimage’ after all, and now that pilgrimage had ended, and he was a changed man.

A recommended read for sure, though I know some die-hard Murakami fans don’t agree, but I see no real reason as to why!

Five Book Tags

I’ve decided to create five categories for which to assign a book to. I stole these at random, and didn’t have any particular in books in mind when I began (/writing this). I’m going through a time of looking into books I wouldn’t otherwise consider, and think it would be interesting for others to use these tags in order to get an idea of what other people are into. Please comment a link to your blog should you do so!

A book you judged by the cover and was right


The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman – Denis Theriault

It was autumn, I was looking for a short book, I stumbled across this. The only branch of a cherry blossom with its leaves falling to the ground made me think the book was going to be somewhat peaceful, and the the title made me wonder how this would be combined with that impression. This is a great little book and one I recommend to just about everyone at some point.


A book you shouldn’t judge by the cover


The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

I feel that this cover is very simplistic, and the alternative ‘movie cover’ is even worse. I bought this on release and it is bar far the best ‘zombie book’ I’ve read. Most cliches were avoided, and the writing was actually quite good. It avoided a lot predictable plot points, and some parts were genuinely frightening.


A book you tried and disliked


The Black Eyed Blonde – Benjamin Black

I hadn’t read much within the crime genre and so picked one at random. At first I thought the cliches (dusty telephone that hadn’t rang in weeks, long-legged blonde walking into the office, smoking and whiskey addiction) were ironic and funny, but it soon became evident they weren’t meant to be ironic. I felt the main character was just observing the events the whole time, and didn’t actually forward the plot himself. Maybe another crime book in the future.


A book that you didn’t finish


Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

I just couldn’t get gripped by the story. I understand the premise etc., but I just found it wasn’t written well. I felt that the same few phrases were being used over and over to the point where I was no longer interested when the narrator ‘was reminded about the time when…”, so I put it down and started another book.


A book you’ve been meaning¬†to read for some time


The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’ve liked everything I’ve read so far by Dostoevsky, and a few of his books make it into my favourites pile, but I’ve never read The Idiot. It’s not too long compared to some books, and premised is quite interesting: an impoverished noble returning from an asylum, regarded as an idiot due to his natural goodness they perceive as naivety. I own the edition in the picture too… one day I’ll read it.



The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide (Book Review)



I picked this up after seeing it on the ‘World Literature’ table at my local Waterstones. Being not much over 100 pages, I thought it would make a quick read in the interim between larger books.

A couple who live in a small house both work from home. The alley behind their house is often home to stray cats, and their neighbour, an elderly lady in a large house chases them away.

That is until their neighbours adopt one: Chibi. Chibi is free-spirited cat who, despite the dislike for being picked up, freely spends time around humans. Though owned by the couples neighbours, Chibi spends a lot of time at the couple’s house and they care for her too.

The book is a strange one. I found a lot of the writing to be poetic, and enjoyed the descriptions of often everyday life. The couple seemed to live in isolation of others, but Chibi give them contact to more than their nocturnal world in front of computers and working.

The story doesn’t seem to follow much more than the impact the cat has on the life of the couple. And it seems to be quite large one. Maybe cat-lovers could sympathise more with their reactions, and don’t get me wrong – I like cats, but I found their devotion to the animal somewhat over the top.

Perhaps they saw it as more of a child, and perhaps their was more solace in caring for the cat than simply having the company of a cute fluffy thing. It certainly makes me think something was found in the cat from the outside world that the couple could find nowhere else.

Overall it was a quick read and not a bad book. Wouldn’t suit someone looking for a lot of action, but certainly a book on finding art in the monotony of life.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (Book Review)


This was another book chosen for the book club I attend: something I wouldn’t typically chose: my first impression of it being a historical fiction. I was quite surprised, however:

The book follows a two story lines in almost alternate chapters:

Marie-Laure, a six-year-old French child, is daughter an employee at a museum. The museum is home to a mysterious diamond: the Sea of Flames. Becoming blind at the age of 6, she navigates the streets of her home town by memorising a model her father has built for her. When the German armies begin to occupy France, she travels with her Father to Saint Malo to live with her uncle Etienne.

Werner Pfennig is a young German boy living in an orphanage, destined to work in the mines like the rest of the community. Due to his aptitude with electronics, however, he is welcomed in the Hitler Youth. Continuing through the programme and finally joining the troops, Werner helps capture those using radios by tracing their signals, ultimately leading him to Saint Malo.

As the Second World War unfolds, and stories intertwine, the story of two seemingly ordinary people face the challenges brought to the youth of Europe in the 1940’s.

The book was quite well written, and the storylines felt quite natural in presenting the horrors of war-torn europe. I first feared that author may feel the need to contantly remind the reader that Marie-Laure was blind (as is often the case!) but he did not, and this made the writing so much more flowing.

The story line was quite touching, and challenging in some place: how do we in the 21st century think of those who were lucky to have a bowl of watery, cabbage soup as their only meal in days? or those who, though so young, were forced to defend their country, some of whom didn’t want but had to in order to not be executed, or shamed?

I don’t wish to spoil the ending, but I appreciate the method the author uses in the fate of some of the characters: we simply don’t find out what happened. It can often leave the reader frustrated, but how much more were those back then frustrated to never find out where their loved ones were? Alive or dead, identified or just a number, it must have been a difficult decision to stop searching years after the war, and some probably never did.

WW2 showed the horrors of humanity at its rawest, and those are times we can’t imagine to have lived through. Heres to hoping we needn’t!