Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Yoko Ogawa

about book:

From Akutagawa Award-Winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.

A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool - a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life.

A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination - but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister's?

A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg.

Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, The Diving Pool is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.

my thoughts:

OMFG! Once again, Yoko Ogawa has made me fall in love with her writing.  I'm serious, its true.  I heart Ogawa's writing.  It is just so fracking fantastic that I can't help but find myself completely spellbound by her beautifully elegant words.  She just knows how to write in such a delicate way about the most creepy, ugly, and disturbing things - it just blows my mind.  I swear, her writing always leaves me in awe - and The Diving Pool was no exception.

Ogawa has written three novellas that are intriguing, unsettling, and incredibly haunting. I found myself obsessed with the first story titled, The Diving Pool.  Its about a teenaged girl named Aya who is is love with her pseudo-brother Jun.  They live in an orphanage that is run by Aya's parents.  As we learn more about Aya and her infatuation with Jun, we also begin to see a different side to Aya.  She has a cruel streak that is fierce and her victim is a toddler named Rie.  Aya places Rie in an urn and listens to her cry; she feeds her a rotting pastry; and she sends Rie to hospital - its unsettling to read about, but you can't help but keep turning pages.  I found it to be a truly fascinating read about the battle within Aya as she struggles to get a handle on these malevolent feelings that somehow seem to be a reaction of sorts to her romantic feelings for Jun.  Its just an amazing story.  As for the other two novellas - Wow!  In the Pregnancy Diary, we have two sisters, one is pregnant and the other is fanatical about recording a diary of her sister's pregnancy.  At first we just read about how any smell of food makes the sister sick and so she isn't eating.  But then grapefruit jam makes an entrance and the next thing you know she can't stop eating grapefruit jam.  She is eating it by the ton it seems.  The thing is that grapefruit jam is possibly toxic...hmmm...and yet, more and more of it get made.  I'll just leave it at that.  In the final novella, Dormitory, we have a woman who is getting ready to move to Sweden with her husband - she's just waiting for him to tell her its time.  Her days are spent ignoring his email lists and sewing patchwork for a quilt.  One day she gets a call from a cousin she hasn't seen in ages and the next thing you know, she is helping him move into the old boardinghouse she lived in during college.  She begins to visit her cousin at his new place, but he's never home and so she winds up hanging out with the landlord.  However, it starts to get a bit scary when her cousin NEVER seems to be home and then the landlord is confiding about the real reason his boardinghouse is empty.  This story makes you jump to extremes rather quickly and I loved it.

I know I didn't give a lot away for each story, but how could I - they were short!  Plus, these are the types of stories you need to read for yourself in order to appreciate.  They are eye-opening, thought-provoking, eerie, brilliant, and the epitome of a what a short story should be.  You will love them!!
Hurrah! I finally read something for JLC7!!  This month was short story month and Ogawa's book The Diving Pool was the perfect choice for the challenge.  And now, I'm off to finish reading Jeannette Walls' The Silver Star - it is AMAZING!!!


Bellezza said...

Wow, Nadia, you have me planning on going to bn.com after I leave this comment to download this on my nook. It sounds so incredible, and I love the way you write of Ogawa's skill. I think to some extent there is a cruel streak in humans, and most of us are able to quell it successfully. But what an interesting aspect of our nature for Ogawa to write about. Thank you for reading for the JLC7; I myself am trying to finish Paris by Ruthurford for Paris in July. Then maybe I can continue in my own challenge. ;)

Nadia said...

Bellezza, thanks! I just know you are going to enjoy these stories ;) Let me know what you think! And, I do agree with you that we all have a cruel streak lying beneath the surface, but luckily we don't all act on it. I suppose it always comes down to the battle between good and evil somehow. How's Paris going? I have one more book to post about for Paris in July and then I'm done. I didn't get to read as much as I had intended. Oh well.

bermudaonion said...

Ogawa is a new author to me but I don't think I've ever read any Japanese literature. It sounds like I need to.

Nadia said...

bermudaonion, you need to! You will love her work :)

Aarti said...

Goodness, you definitely convinced me to try Ogawa! Thanks for reviewing a book that I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise.

Priya said...

Wow, the books sounds fascinating, especially the last story. Thanks for the great review, I will look for Ogawa's books the next time I'm at the library!

Nadia said...

Aart, yay! I'm so glad ;) Enjoy her work!

Priya, it was! You are going to love it!

Lisa said...

I do like Ogawa and this sounds fantastic. I'll have to kep my eye out for it!

Ti said...

The time you and I talked about this author you were just as enthusiastic. I just downloaded Revenge on audio based on your recommendation. I'm worried about the audio though. Like, maybe it will be hard to follow? We'll see.