Mitsuyo Kakuta has written an impressive amount of books, including novels, essays, translations and children’s books. She won the Naoki Prize in 2004 for her novel 『対岸の彼女』, translated into English by Wayne P. Lammers under the title Woman on the Other Shore.
『愛がなんだ』was first published in 2003 and adapted into a film in 2019 (director: Rikiya Imaizumi).
Teruko is in love with Mamoru and always makes herself available for him, even if this means cancelling other activities with friends or absent herself from work.
I immediately loved Teruko and felt an immediate sympathy for her. Rather than identifying myself with the protagonist, I felt like a friend of her and really wanted to bump into the story and tell her to stop acting like she was!
I enjoyed the story and I found that the depiction of Teruko was very well done. However, I would have liked the novel better if it had gone into a more profound study of character to understand why Teruko feels and acts like she does. Obviously, the topic of the novel is to ask the question “what is love?”, but I personally don’t think that Teruko’s behaviour has anything to do with “love”, I think it is more something linked to what she is, what she experienced, her childhood, her relationship with her parents, and so on. As it is, I felt a little weary of Teruko’s behaviour in the end because the novel did not explained why she would like act like that.
But the novel remained a pleasant read until the end and at times triggered strong emotions in me (I really ended up hating Mamoru). I enjoyed reading it, but I also suspect that it might not be the best novel by this author. I will try to read the Naoki prize winner 『対岸の彼女』 one of these days.
I plan on watching the movie too, here is the trailer: