.

.

January 23, 2020

Convenience Store Woman



Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Fiction
2018 Grove Press
Finished on January 21, 2020
Rating: 1/5 (Poor)

Publisher's Blurb:

Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers' style of dress and speech patterns so she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life but is aware that she is not living up to society's expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko's contented stasis—but will it be for the better?

Sayaka Murata brilliantly captures the atmosphere of the familiar convenience store that is so much part of life in Japan. With some laugh-out-loud moments prompted by the disconnect between Keiko's thoughts and those of the people around her, she provides a sharp look at Japanese society and the pressure to conform, as well as penetrating insights into the female mind. Convenience Store Woman is a fresh, charming portrait of an unforgettable heroine that recalls Banana Yoshimoto, Han Kang, and Amelie.


My dear friend Meredith (of Dolce Bellezza) has been hosting a Japanese Literature challenge for the past 13 years. Every year I consider participating in this event, but I have to admit it's not a genre I particularly care for. Prior to reading Convenience Store Woman, I think the only other translated Japanese book that I've read is Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. I was disappointed with both of these books, not quite understanding their large appeal. While perusing the reviews on Goodreads for Convenience Store Woman, I was surprised to see so many 4 and 5 star ratings. Not only did readers love this novel, but they thought it was brilliant! I scrolled and scrolled, searching for a 1 or 2 star rating, but they were few and far between. I am definitely in the minority on this one. The dialogue was unrealistic and stilted and the premise of the story was unsettling and ridiculous. After a dozen or so pages, I grew bored and impatient to finish. Had it not been such a short book, I would have given up halfway through.

Click here to read Bellezza's thoughts on this novel.

10 comments:

  1. I have this one on audio - think it might have been a 'daily deal' a while back. It's less than 3-1/2 hours long. I might listen to it or try to and see if that would be a better method for reading it. For me anyway. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay, I'm curious to hear how this book works for you on audio. Please let me know what you think. I listened to the audio sample and the reader seems to do a nice job.

      Delete
  2. I enjoyed this book. Sorry it didn't work for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, I remember reading your review. I guess I'm just not a fan of translated Japanese books.

      Delete
  3. Now I need to try it since you and Kathy have such different opinions LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd be curious to see what you think of the book, Diane! Team Kathy or Team Lesley? LOL!

      Delete
  4. Oh no, I'm sorry this one didn't work for you. Well, hopefully the next book you read will be much better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! I may have the only 1 star rating on Goodreads. :)

      Delete
  5. I can understand frustration with the Japanese literature “genre.” At first, it seemed stilted to me, too. (I wonder if it is an issue of translation, or if their language is really that much different from ours? I don’t know.) I have come to enjoy elements of magical realism, as well as a revelation of their culture, and an exploration of character. For me, I liked this book because I saw the character becoming stronger as the novel progressed. Although, I don’t think strong is a good term for her; she really seemed on the spectrum of autism or something. Yet, she broke free from that awful relationship, found contentment working a simple job, and I liked that. Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan. Every. Where. And, it made the story come alive for me. That said, I can understand why you didn’t appreciate it. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meredith, you really do have a love for Japanese literature and I wish I shared that joy, but I'm afraid I've tried and nothing has worked for me. You and I can talk about mysteries, though, right? :) xoxo

      Delete

I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!