Heaven — Mieko Kawakami

I had my first trip in forever to beloved London Review Bookshop a couple of weeks ago, thanks to a day in an office just over the road. I went kidding myself that I was just going in for lunch (to their excellent cafe) and then, of course, was unable to resist a mini book spree. So I wandered around, quiche in hand, trying — and failing — to contain my spending. This is one of the results.

I loved Breasts and Eggs last year, so was very excited about this. Translated from Japanese, Heaven is about a 14-year-old boy and his friendship with a girl is his class who, like him, is being badly bullied.

Kawakami does so much with this short novel. While I have no desire to return to my teens, her teenagers’ world and characterisation is convincing and compelling and I loved how she captured the teenage voice. So much relatable introspection! And, notably (almost to the point of being triggering), the intellectually bankrupt arguments of an arrogant boy, for good measure.

It is a beautiful, devastating and thoroughly gripping read, with light enough that it doesn’t end up being bleak. By happy coincidence, I found out August is women in translation month — this was an excellent way to start it.

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