Three mini reviews for the three novellas.
The Diving Pool
I wondered what sort of sound was made when the hooks holding a family came apart. Perhaps a dull spat, like the sound of a ripe fruit splitting open. Or maybe it was more like an explosion, when you mix the wrong chemicals.
This one was my favorite of the bunch. It follows the main character Aya’s obsessive crush on Jun her foster brother. Her parents own a Catholic orphanage, and she has grown up with children shuffling in and out of her life. Her house has always been full of people, but she’s always been extremely lonely. Her parents have devoted their lives to their foster children, and ironically their own child is the most neglected. She develops a cruel streak that manifest at the expense of innocents. Her cruelty towards others and watching Jun practice his swimming, are the only comforts Aya has. The story ends with a bit of a twist, and it’s one of the reason why I love Ogawa. She always manages a subtle surprise at then end.
The Pregnancy Diaries
In fact, I don’t really understand couples at all. They seem like some sort of inexplicable gaseous body to me-a shapeless, colorless, unintelligible thing trapped in a laboratory beaker.
A woman’s pregnancy is told through the eyes of her sister. It’s quite bizarre to be honest. The pregnant sister is apathetic throughout her entire pregnancy, and she develops a weird aversion to food. It’s very much a story about an outsider looking in. The sister (none of them are giving names so if this is confusing sorry) has to make all these compromises for her pregnant sister, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She is curious person, and she likes to speculate in her diary about the things she doesn’t understand. She makes notes about her sister, her sister’s husband, and anyone she comes into contact with. The narrator is lonely, but she’s also innocent and naive. The story focuses a lot on food, and the relationship we have with it, and the connections we form with others through it.
My life, too seemed to drifting in circles, as if caught in the listless season.
By far the most morbid of the three. The again nameless narrator spends her days awaiting her husband’s summons from Sweden where he is being transferred for work. She gets a call from a younger cousin who is starting university in Tokyo and needs help finding a dormitory. She puts him in contact with her former dormitory manger, but quickly discover much has changed since her time there. I don’t want to say too much about this one because there are some surprises that I think are best when you discover them on your own. It has a questionable ending which I both love and hate. Like the narrator in “The Pregnancy Diaries”, this narrator feels like an observer. She’s lonely and tired of her mundane life, so she wants to find something to do, and she stumbles into something unexpected that makes her question life and humanity. This one also has a very creepy tone which I really liked.
All of these stories parallel the same themes: loneliness, abandon, cruelty, food, and obsession. They’re each so different, but they all manage to surprise and captivate. Another favorite Ogawa to add to the list.