Thoughts on books: The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami

You know how there are some days - you wake up close to mid-day; the sky is grey and overcast and it is just about to rain; the way the light comes in through the window and casts shadows onto the wall; and the first thing that comes to mind is writing down some melancholic thoughts about a book you just read.

The book I'm talking about is The Nakano Thrift Shop by Japanese contemporary novelist Hiromi Kawakmi, which I think I bought this year but probably more than just a few months ago. I usually buy a few books at a time to read so I didn't get started on this book until maybe three months ago when I brought it to the hair salon to read.

Anyway, I didn't get beyond the first chapter for some reason. Maybe I was put off by The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (which I just did not enjoy).

I'm by no means a well-read person and I don't claim to be an authority on Japanese authors, but I find that there's a certain style of description that Japanese authors employ. Maybe it's the style of their language and maybe that's the beauty of it, but The Nakano Thrift Shop sounded a bit too similar to The Guest Cat so I lost interest.

And then a few nights ago I picked it up again to read just before bed, trying to cultivate the habit of avoiding the digital screen just before bed, and promptly finished it in about two hours. I went to bed happy.

I felt for all the four main characters - Hitomi, Takeo, Mr Nakano and his sister Masayo - and the supporting characters were just as recognisable and distinct. There were little stories and situations that could have stood on its own, but when strung together it made sense and showed the deepening of relationships and the understanding the characters had of each other.

The plot wasn't entirely predictable but at the same time I could rationally guess what the character was going to do, because their personalities were so clear and I felt like I knew them myself. It was as though they were real people. It reminded me that the flaws and vices of a person are what makes them whole. They can't be entirely good but that doesn't mean they are necessarily evil (I'm not including psychopaths here).

I would read this book again, maybe in a few years. Pity I don't like the cover of the version I have - I saw a much nicer book design last week at the bookstore :(