Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto ***
I have read two of Yoshimoto’s books to date – N.P. and Asleep – and have very much enjoyed them both. Amrita is a far longer work of fiction, and is consequently rather chunky in comparison. The premise was so intriguing, however, that I did not think it would take me too long to get through. The Independent on Sunday have called Yoshimoto ‘the voice of young Japan’, and it certainly follows that all of the books of hers which I have read so far are both culturally and socially important within both the context of Japan and the world.
Amrita was first published in Japan in 1994 and translated into English in 1997. Throughout, what most interested me was the way in which other cultures have impacted upon modern Japan. The main family in this novel, for example, eat things like borscht, and talk often about the impact of the West upon themselves. Sadly, whilst I did enjoy the novel overall, I found some of the dialogue a little overworked. It did not quite read true of a real conversation. At times, the story feels a little flat, and the entirety seems to be entirely devoid of emotion at its most pivotal points. The philosophical elements of the plot have clearly been well thought out, but they too seemed a little overworked at times, particularly towards the end of the novel. Whilst Amrita is enjoyable, it is my least favourite Yoshimoto to date.
Flower Fairies: The Four Seasons by Cicely Mary Barker *****
This is another book which April so very kindly sent me for Christmas. I have always absolutely adored the Flower Fairies, and it is lovely to have such a beautiful gift book, which includes the entire collection of Barker’s illustrations and poems, in my possession. Barker’s drawings are absolutely beautiful, and the poems which run alongside them are so enchanting. Reading them again as an adult made me realise just how informative they are with regard to different plants, and the ways in which a child can recognise them. Little facts are woven in too – for example, that black bryony ‘used to be thought a cure for freckles’. Flower Fairies: The Four Seasons is absolutely adorable, and is a book which I will be reading many more times in the future.