Every now and then I read a book that reminds me of when I was at school. Thousand Cranes is one of those – not because the subject matter or the story is anything to do with school, but it’s the sort of book I used to read then.
Thousand Cranes is not a cheerful book. It’s slender, a mere 147 pages in the edition I read. It’s laser focused on one man and his relationship with three women, and set in Japan. There are a few references to other parts of his life – his dead father, his dead mother (you begin to see the cheerful nature of it). The women are, essentially, his father’s two former mistresses and one of their daughters.
There’s a subtlety, or maybe even prudishness, about the seamier side of his relationships with these women, and a hint that perhaps the daughter is his half sister, but an awful lot of the detail focusses on the tea ceremony and old Japanese porcelain.
It’s a nice piece of writing, though may have lost something in translation, but the portrayal of the female characters was not kind – maybe the wrong word – and the book does touch on suicide.
Was it a good book? The Nobel committee clearly thought so and I certainly got something out of it, but I find it hard to recommend.