I am not very familiar with Risa Wataya’s work. I have read 『勝手にふるえてろ』 in translation before I started learning Japanese, and it did not leave a strong impression on me. I also tried to read her most famous novel 『蹴りたい背中』(Akutagawa prize), but it was too difficult to read in Japanese at the time.
In 『私をくいとめて』, we follow the daily life and thoughts of Mitsuko who is in her early thirties and single.
This is a short novel of 242 pages, so I never really thought of not finishing it, but I did not really like it either. The idea of a 33-year-old single woman as protagonist was appealing to me because I thought that maybe, there would be social elements in the novel (choosing one’s own path vs social conventions). It is not the case, however, and the story mainly focuses on Mitsuko’s internal life and thoughts.
What I disliked in this novel is that it felt like reading an autobiographical writing. If this book was a non fictional account of the author’s thoughts and life, I would be okay with it, but I would certainly not have bought it. However, given that this is a novel, I expect a little more in terms of plot and character development. I would say that none were satisfactory in 『私をくいとめて』. The story does become interesting towards the end, but it also does not seem to lead anywhere. I never felt like there is a constructed plot behind the story. As for the character development, the protagonist does have an interesting personality, but the story is entirely focused on her and the other characters are not really interesting (apart maybe, from Mitsuko’s colleague).
There are interesting things in this book however, like the thoughts on solitude and what the protagonist dares or not to do alone (like going to cafes or restaurants). But again, I could not help but have the feeling that the author was talking about her own experience rather than building a fictional setting and fictional characters.
I think that in the end, it comes down to whether or not you like this kind of novels and Risa Wataya’s writing style. I can see why some people love it, and I guess that it is easy to identify with the protagonist and share her thoughts.
I will certainly try again to read 『蹴りたい背中』one of these days because I have the book on my shelf and because it won the Akutagawa Prize. But I think that Risa Wataya’s novels are just not the kind of novels that I enjoy reading…