Currently Reading: 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ

I was very excited to start a new book by Kanae MINATO! I have read only one book from this author before, but it is clearly one of my favourite books. I was looking forward to reading another story by Kanae MINATO and was full of expectations when I finally opened 『往復書簡』. The fact that it is an epistolary (書簡・しょかん) work added to my excitement (I love epistolary novels, but I don’t read them often.)

My expectations were both entirely fulfilled and confounded. Fulfilled because I felt engrossed in the story right from the beginning and confounded because… it is not a novel! It is a collection of short stories! I realised it only when I reached the end of the “first chapter” (which was, in reality, the first story).

Have you ever started a collection of short stories thinking it was a novel? I can’t remember having such an experience before. I felt so disappointed, haha. I like short stories too, but not as much as a novel. No, in fact, if I can choose between reading a novel and short stories, I will always choose the novel. And if I can choose between a 600 pages novel and a 300 pages novel, I will go for the first. The longer, the better, even if it does not vouch for the quality of the novel. The reason is that it takes some efforts to get familiar with a fictional setting, a bunch of characters, their relationship and so on. Once I have done the effort, I like to know that it will be useful for a long time. Short stories oblige you to get familiar with new characters for only 50-100 pages and then start the whole process from scratch again.

Anyway, there were a lot of hints that should have told me I was not reading a novel. For example, I was puzzled that the story I was reading had nothing, but really nothing, in common with the summary on the cover (which was in fact, a summary of the second story). As I was coming closer to the end of the first “chapter”, the story was obviously reaching its end, and I was waiting for the plot twist, haha!

I overlooked the word 連作・れんさく on the cover… It means “a series of works on the same theme”, and it is exactly what we have here.

This being said I loved the first story. I will wait until I have read all the short stories and write my review, but I can already say that the first story was very engrossing!

But I was so happy to read an epistolary novel, it was so promising, I loved the characters, the plot, the mystery and I was prepared to stay with them for more than 300 pages. All this disappointment because of false expectations! Next time, I will scrutinise every millimetre of the cover, read thoroughly the summary, analyse the table of contents, flip through the pages and even X-ray the book before starting!

I don’t know what I should do now… Shall I start the next story or take a break, read another novel, and come back to 『往復書簡』later?

Currently Reading - 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ2.jpg

4 thoughts on “Currently Reading: 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ

  1. I love longer works, too – novels more than short stories, and tv series more than movies! If I like the characters I want to spend a whole bunch of time with them, darn it. 😉 It’s kind of contrary but, on the other end of the spectrum, I like so-called flash fiction where each story is only a page or two long. There’s so little investment in the characters at that length that I can let them go easily, hehe. Enjoy the rest of the stories!

    1. Flash fiction? I think I never read them, or maybe read some without knowing they were called so. It sounds really interesting! The Wikipedia page in Japanese for “ショートショート” has a list of several Japanese authors of short short stories. A new area to explore 😄 !!

      1. Yea exploring! I think ショートショート are basically like flash fiction, but the latter sounds more hip and modern, to my ear at least. 😉 I’ve been told I’d like 星新一 (ショートショート science fiction) but I’ve yet to read him.

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