I bought this book in Japan, partly because I loved the cover, partly because I wanted to read something else than mystery novels.
Rintaro MANO, alias “大先生”, is working as a doctor in Asakusa, Tokyo. His prices are cheap, and it is no secret that people come to him to talk about their problems in life rather than to get a medical consultation.
We meet Rintaro’s patients and friends, and share their lives and fate through 7 short chapters of around 50 pages each.
First of all, I loved this book, and I would easily recommend 『下町やぶさか診療所』. However, even though the doctor’s office is a central place in the novel, I don’t think you can call this novel a medical fiction. Rintaro does little more than applying his stethoscope to his patients’s chest. It is true that most of the stories show how people deal with diseases, but it is more about their daily life and moral choices than about the disease itself or medical treatments.
I think that the choice of a doctor as the main character is mainly a pretext to tell the stories of the patients who come to Rintaro’s clinic. This structure reminds me of another novel I have read in Japanese: 『向田理髪店』by Hideo Okuda (review here). The clinic, as well as the barber’s shop, is a place where people of the neighbourhood come to complain about their life and problems.
But while『向田理髪店』 was a heartwarming, light and funny novel, 『下町やぶさか診療所』is… the opposite. The novel deals with heavy topics, difficult choices and is at times very sad. But the author is a great story teller, I loved the characters right away and felt involved in their story.
As for the Japanese level, I found this novel surprisingly easy to read. I was bracing myself for complicated descriptions and an avalanche of medical terms, but there was none of these. The novel is mainly based on dialogues, which makes it really easy to read, there are not a lot of characters and almost no descriptions.
When I write about the books I have read in 2019 at the end of the year, I know for sure that 『下町やぶさか診療所』will figure among my favourite books.