Monday, December 3, 2012

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

The Monday Mention is back with another favorite from earlier this year.


The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki, originally published serially in Japan during the 1940's,  offers "a detailed characterization of four daughters of a wealthy Osaka merchant family who see their way of life slipping away in the early years of World War II."

Quite a departure from the mostly British and American classics I have been choosing lately, this book started slowly, mostly due to unfamiliar Japanese names which were hard to keep straight.  A character list hastily scrawled on a post-it note stuck to the inside cover helped immensely and I breezed through the rest of the novel.

What I loved:

  • the characters
  • cultural traditions surrounding courtship and marriage
  • descriptions, especially of dress and dance
  • recurring references to cherry blossoms and fireflies

Most of all, I loved how one family mirrored a country's struggle. The four Makioka sisters represented both ends of the spectrum between a traditional and modern way of life.

My rating:



20 comments:

  1. This looks good. I'm only familiar with a couple of Japanese authors like Murakami and Ishiguro - this one is new to me! I must check him out.

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    1. Trish - I have yet to read Murakami, but I've had After Dark an my shelf for a few years now.

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  2. This year Japanese novels have been amoung my favorites. For some reason, I keep finding them and finding them very intriguing. I'll look for this one.

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    1. C.B. James - I'll definitely be reading more Japanese literature, too.

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  3. I remember when you were reading this one so I'm glad to see that it finished so strongly for you! I have the same problems with fantasy--the abundance of characters and the difficulty in pronouncing the names. It sounds like such a beautiful novel and I love hearing tidbits about Japanese culture.

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    1. Trish - Those cultural tidbits really made the novel for me- it was so interesting reading about the courtship and marriage customs! There will certainly be more Japanese literature in my future.

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  4. I wish I'd thought of a character list - and even a family tree! I kept confusing the mother & daughter's names, but not enough to spoil the book at all.

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    1. Lisa May - I seem to be making those family trees/character lists more ad more these days...

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  5. This is a novel I've long been meaning to read for my Japanese Literature Challenge. It makes me smile that you wrote the names of the characters on a list; I always do that for Russian novels and I'll probably do it when I read this book.

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    1. Bellezza - You MUST read this novel for the 2013 challenge... I'm quite sure you will love it.

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  6. Excellent book, one I'd like to reread at some point :)

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    1. Tony - I'm sure I'll reread this at some point, too.

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  7. I loved this, too, JoAnn. It was funny how long and laborious finding a husband can be. :)

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    1. Claire - You said it! I've never read anything about Japanese marriage or engagement customs before WWII, but was amazed at the complicated, regimented system. Will seek out more Japanese novels from this time period.

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  8. Making a note of the post-it with all of the names. This one appeals to me and it sounds like a story that I would interested in. I like the four sisters and each one adding to the complete story.

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    1. Staci - I've gotten into the habit of putting a few post-it notes inside each book I read... seems like there is always something worth noting!

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  9. You must see the film adaptation of The Makioka Sisters (from Criterion Collection)... it's just beautiful. I haven't read the book but the film really impressed me. I really should read the book one day.

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    1. Arti - I had the film from Netflix during a particularly busy time last spring/summer and finally returned it unwatched. Thanks for reminding me to add it to my queue once again. I think you would really enjoy the book!

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  10. I remember seeing you reading this and wondered what your thoughts on it had ended up being. Sounds like one I'll definitely want to pick up.

    I'm forever keeping post-it notes in books, particularly long ones. I ended up with eight in Bleak House!

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    1. Lisa - The book was wonderful, but it seemed like there was almost too much I wanted to say about it. A long review kept getting postponed, but the 'Monday Mention' style didn't seem as overwhelming.

      Hurray for post-it notes!

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