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I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019 and I am now properly retired and trying to write a novel. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 22 March 2020

"Territory of Light" by Yuko Tsushima

The narrator moves into a flat on the top storey of an office block with her two year-old daughter after separating from her husband, the child's father. This book consists of episodes during the next year in which the narrator experiences dreams, memories, problems raising her daughter, and problems with relationships and work. The episodes are presented more or less sequentially, and they are more or less standalone; in one case a subsequent episode refers to a previous one in a way that means one doesn't necessarily have to have read (or remembered) the earlier one.

As with Tsushima's Child of Fortune, the narrator doesn't seem a particularly good mother (one of the differences being that in CoF the protagonist is in the third person rather than the first as of ToL which makes the neglect seem worse in ToL). In one episode she loses her child at the park and after an initial panic more or less gives up looking for her. In another episode she leaves her child asleep in the flat while she goes out and gets drunk. Later she palms the little girl off on a neighbour for free childcare. Perhaps this is normal in Japan.

The prose is very flat. Mostly things happen and there is dialogue; there seems to be little exploration of feelings. In  The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu compares "Chinese brush paintings ... full of blank spaces" with " classical oil paintings ... filled with thick, rich, solid colours." Perhaps the same is true of Japanese literature. Certainly I have that feeling from the Tsushima novels that I have red, as well as The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. This is not to deny that ToL some wonderful moments of description, such as: "When I lifted my face to the sky, the berries in their grapelike clusters gleamed an opulent red against its blueness." (Red Lights) Fundamentally, Tsushima's technique seems to be to aim for precision and clarity of expression, simplifying as far as can be done, and to allow emotions to be inferred from the actions and speech of each character.

Her prose is certainly elegantly exquisite and this book seems like a carefully crafted miniature. It drops hints rather than overacting.

Some great moments:

  • "Why were children the only ones who ever got to melt down." (Sunday in the Trees)
  • "Growing up is overrated, if you ask me. If I'd known adult life would be this boring, I'd have had more fun while I could." (The sound of a Voice)
  • "The way nightmares vanish and anxieties evaporate when you open your eyes is one of life's pleasures." (Red Lights)
  • "Stars! The colder it is, the more clearly they appear." (The Body)


March 2020; 122 pages

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