‘Perhaps living and dying are the same thing’
Kinshu: Autumn Brocade was my final read for 2009. First published in 1982 and in English in 2005, it is the gentle resolution (by way of letters) of a broken down relationship.
The novel opens: ‘Dear Yasuaki, I never imagined I would run into you on Mount Zao, in the gondola lift going from the dahlia garden to Dokko Pond. I was so suprised that I was speechless for the whole twenty minute ride up the mountain’
Since a traumatic event led to their divorce ten years earlier, this chance encounter with her ex husband prompts Aki to send him a letter. She is not sure why she is writing but feels the need to share some of her feelings about the past and where she is in her life now.
Initially reluctant, Yasuaki responds to the letter and subsequent letters and over a period of months they have a type of therapy by correspondence. Each has the opportunity to vent and share as much as they wish. Initial hostility on both sides gradually softens and they discover crucial things about each other they never knew.
I had read positive reviews about this book and had been on the look out for it for a while. A story in letters was something new for me and I enjoyed the novelty of that. There were some lovely insights and parts of the story. In particular a coffee shop that Aki frequents that plays only music by Mozart whom the owners are obviously passionate about. Aki is captivated by this passion and develops a special relationship with the couple.
The story also has some dramatic and dark aspects and while it was a nice read and I was interested to read the response in the next letter, on the whole it didn’t really demand my attention. I can’t say I loved it but I did think it was worth reading.
Translated from the Japanese by Roger K Thomas