Monday, 28 January 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Goodbye Tsugumi, Hello Amateurish Book Review

All opinions are my own, end of

Having developed the desire to broaden my writing options a little, I decided upon reviewing various examples of Japanese literature, should I get to read some. Obviously, thanks to school, writing about literature is not at all something new to me but I've never casually reviewed a book like this, so, hopefully, I won't cock it up too much.
Goodbye Tsugumi, or TUGUMI (pronounced simply as 'Tsugumi') as it's called in Japan, is the fourth novel of writer of Yoshimoto Banana, originally written back in 1989 before recieving an English-language adaption in 2002.
Goodbye Tsugumi is a novel dealing with people learning to cope with possible loss and saying goodbye, as well as accepting the fact that each and every person sees the world in a different way. Written in a first-person-narrative style, the novel follows the life of said narrator, a young girl of about eighteen years or so, called Maria (this didn't strike me as a very Japanese-sounding name, until I remembered that it could be written as '聖 ', which literally means 'holy' and is normally read as 'sei'. could be written another way, what do I know? But it is stated that she is named after the Virgin Mary, anyway), the Summer of her first year of University. She spends the Summer at her hometown, which she had left for Tokyo just before she started Uni, at her Aunt and Uncle's inn. The second most important character in this book is, in fact, her cousin, the youngest of the inn's two daughters - the titular Tsugumi, a girl who has been weak and frail since birth but, even so, has an extremely powerful personality and, as a result of her extremely brash attitude, she gets close enough to anything she so desires.
As far as plot is concerned, the novel doesn't pick up until much later on, with the majority of the earlier chapters building up a long-winded backstory. The entire novel appears to be written in retrospect so these earlier chapters actually work really well and don't detract from the overall quality of the novel at all. In fact, these earlier chapters are nothing short of vital in that they provide us with a clear understanding of Tsugumi's development as a person, allowing us to understand her a little better. Even later on in the novel, there are certains steps back into the past, but each is relevant to whatever was already happening and do nothing but add to the appreciation of the novel. In all honesty, the plot isn't actually that appealing in itself but it has to be noted that this is not a plot-driven novel by any stretch of the imagination. The novel is almost entirely pulled along by the chharacters and their emotions. The plot isn't bad, but it's a far cry from being anything exciting, so to speak. Above all else, I suppose that it's a slice-of-life novel, so the relaxed nature of the plot actually makes the most sense.

Like I said earlier, this novel is very much character-driven and, as such, the character development in this novel is one of the most appealing features. The characters are all pretty individual and believable. They are human. Pretty much all of the characters are likeable, at least the leading ones. Even Tsugumi, for all her obvious personality flaws. Tsugumi is presented in such a positive light that it's actually slightly difficult to hate her. Despite her needlessly harsh mannerisms, something about Tsugumi makes her an attractive character on whom you can dote. For me, personally, Maria was the best character, though, in terms of technical character development, it may have been Tsugumi. That being said, Maria was still very well developed, especially seeing as she was the narrator, and, on top of that, she was a completely genuine character. She was a normal person and she was really easy to identify with and feel for. I really loved how Maria was presented, along with her views of the world. Tsugumi's older sister, Yoko, was also a really lovely character. She was very real yet still ridiculously pleasant. Speaking of which, it's actually quite impressive how believable Tsugumi is, even with her almost eccentric personality. Despite the walls she so clearly puts up, thanks to Maria's sharp observational skills and understanding nature, Tsugumi proves to be a deep and interesting character.

Something else on which this novel thrives is the presenation of emotions. This is mostly important where Maria's narrative is concerned, but she does seem to have an emotional connection to everything. For Maria, nearly everything seems to have a deeper value and, as a result of that, we are provided with bits of absolutely beautiful description and narrative. Everything is just written out in this sweetly sentimental manner. Of course, it seems that some of text, through translation, has ended up a little stilted but, honestly, if you're already used to fan translations and all that, on the grand scheme of things, the prose in this seems pretty natural. And, even so, the images are still really vivid. In some cases, description like this may seem a little excessive but all of it is so skillfully linked to the overall plot through Maria's emotional connection to the world around her. Instead of getting bored of all the description, I just found myself really appreciating the natural images brought to mind by it all.

All in all, it was a good book. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, nor did the book find a place in my list of favourites, but it was, nonetheless, a bloody good read. I heard the book got mixed reviews, so it might be a hit-or-miss kind of book. All I can say about that is that was certainly a hit for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I found it to be a relaxing read. It was moving but it was also pretty calm in its execution so it was really easy to just sit down and calmly read it. And, now, as much as I said the book isn't a favourite of mine, it's certainly gotten me interested in reading more of Yoshimoto's work, especially seeing as her other novels have gotten better reviews. This book's certainly worth a read, though, if this kind of thing appeals to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment