Book review: 『噓を愛する女』 by Etsu Okabe

Title: 噓を愛する女(うそをあいするおんな)
Published: 2017
Format: Bunko
Page Count: 264

I finished reading the first novel of my 2018 reading challenge (read one novel in Japanese a month in 2018). I chose a very short one to begin with: 「噓を愛する女」by 岡部えつ(おかべえつ).

To summarize briefly the story, Yukari (由香里), a successful working woman pushing 30, is living with her boyfriend Kippei (桔平), who does not seem to want to marry her. When Kippei is brought to the hospital unconscious after he suffered from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, Yukari discovers that her boyfriend’s identity is not what she thought it was. She begins an investigation to discover who he really is and why he lied to her.

The novel is very short, 260 pages, and is mainly focused on what Yukari does and discovers. There are very few descriptive parts, which makes it very easy to read for Japanese learners. Every chapter brings new elements that take Yukari and the reader nearer to the truth and this investigation-like story made me keep turning the pages long after I had read my daily quota. But even if reading this novel was very enjoyable, I felt that what kept me reading was more the excitation of cracking the mystery that a real commitment or empathy towards the two characters.

Being short, the novel spares us long setup and takes us immediately in the core of the story. The counterpart is that we know very little if any of the relationship between Yukari and Kippei. There are some rapid flash-backs but the years the characters have spent together remain vacant for the reader. It is hard to take the measure of Yukari’s frustration and to feel committed to her investigation. At the end, while Yukari is fighting for love, I only felt pushed forward by a wicked curiosity about what happened in Kippei’s past.

This does not mean that I didn’t like this novel. It was pleasant to read and it keeps you turn the pages until the end. There are also some good insights into what it means to live together without being married in Japan: no matter how perfect a couple can be, love itself is not enough in a society where you are either “married” or “single”.

To anyone looking for an easy novel in Japanese, 「噓を愛する女」is a good choice. It does not use difficult words, and there are not many descriptive or introspective parts that could be challenging. This is an extract to give you an idea of the book’s difficulty:

The novel opens with Yukari and her mother, waiting in a restaurant for Kippei to arrive. This will be the first meeting between Kippei (桔平) and Yukari’s mother. Unfortunately, Kippei never shows himself and Yukari returns home, thinking that he intentionally avoided meeting her mother (p.13):


Reference: 「噓を愛する女」、岡部えつ、徳間文庫、2017