Book review: 『下町やぶさか診療所』by Yo Ikenaga

下町やぶさか診療所 (したまち やぶさか しんりょうじょ)
Title: 下町やぶさか診療所 (したまち やぶさか しんりょうじょ)
First published: 2018
Published: 2018
Format: Bunko
Page Count: 400
浅草の赤ひげ先生が型破りな女子高生と同居を始めた!?病気や患者の問題に真摯に向き合う医師と美少女が織りなす切なく愛おしい下町物語。東京浅草。診療所の医師・真野麟太郎は、大先生と呼ばれ近所の人々に慕われている。ある日、手首を切った女子高生・麻世が治療にやってくる。麻世の心の傷を知った麟太郎は、一緒に暮らすことを提案。麻世は、家事をすることを条件に同居人になるが……。虐待、認知症、癌など、診療所に持ち込まれる病気や患者の問題に、真摯に向き合う医師と型破りな女子高生が織りなす切なくて温かい下町物語。

I bought this book in Japan, partly because I loved the cover, partly because I wanted to read something else than mystery novels.

Setting

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.

Review

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.