Friday, January 25, 2019
The Tale of the House of Physics by Yoko Ogawa and translated by Ted Goossen
The Tale of the House of Physics is a quiet story. Its slow-paced, aches with emotion, and leaves you wanting. Or at least that is how I felt. I couldn't help but get swept away into this tale of a retired book editor recalling the very first book he ever edited. He's written down a list of the books he has edited throughout his career and thinks back to his first one. He was a child. Across the street lived a woman who no one liked. She lived in an abandoned building that had once house a facility researching particle physics. No one knew how she came to be there, she was just there. She didn't talk to anyone and would walk on the edge of the sidewalk. The children loved to play at the House of Physics. They would play in the garden and sit out on the front porch. They weren't afraid of the woman in the house. In fact, they would listen to her speak about being a writer. You see, she would talk to them, but she would never look any of them in the eye. And she would tell them about being a novelist and how she had written many books. When the children asked for proof, she told them that her books had been burned in the war. She had nothing left to show them. The children laughed and didn't believe a word she said. They continued to play in the garden and even buried a dead weasel they found one time. One day our narrator notices something slightly off about the House of Physics. He walks over and looks around. He enters the house and finds the woman covered up in a bed in the middle of the front room. She is sick. He runs to get help. She slowly gets better and he winds up spending time with her. As he sits next to her, he hears her mumbling. It finally hits him that she is mumbling a story. So he writes it all down. He binds the copy he writes and leaves it for her. And then one day, she is gone. The house is empty and no one knows what happened to her. Our narrator is left with his memory of the woman, her story, and the House of Physics.
That's the story in a nutshell. There are details I left out, so you can definitely experience it all for yourself when you get the chance to read it. And let me say, you should most definitely read it. I absolutely LOVED it. I loved getting to know this character as he reflected on his career and the House of Physics. Ogawa captured a feeling of nostalgia, authenticity, and innocence. She wrote about him with such clarity and emotion - it was superb. I loved reading about his perspective of the woman in the House of Physics. It made me think about so many things: how strangers can have an impact on your life sometimes; how relationships can develop out of nowhere; how people have histories we are not aware of; and how stories truly are magical. Plus, the simple and elegant style of the story provides such a rich depth to it. Its truly a treat to read.
I would definitely recommend The Tale of the House of Physics to fans of Ogawa and anyone looking for their next great read - especially, if you love short stories.
And now, I'm off to figure out which book to read next. Yoshimoto or Murakami? Perhaps, I should read something by a new-to-me author. Hmm...what do you recommend?