BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd [in Booklist]

During a rare non-work outing, a colleague asks, “tell me something about you,” but the protagonist “couldn’t think of a single thing … worth sharing.” Silently, she considers what she might start to say: “My name is Fuyuko Irie, a freelance proofreader, thirty-four years old.” Mieko Kawakami, whose Breast and Eggs (2020) was an international bestseller for exposing the sexist hypocrisy and gender disparity of contemporary Japan, returns with another commanding, introspective novel, again deftly English-enabled by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

Fuyuko – untethered, gainfully employed, comfortably domiciled – might initially be considered a successful young woman. Her aloneness, however, looms. She quits an office job in which she was disdained by fellow staff, but freelancing further isolates her since she rarely needs to leave her apartment, where she works single-mindedly. Her work-assigning colleague might be her only friend.

Once a teetotaler, she discovers that being inebriated is the only way she can venture out. She explores the possibility of enrolling at a local culture center, where she doesn’t find a class but meets a good Samaritan who, for a while, becomes a light-filled connection to science, music, perhaps her own self.

Adroitly interweaving pivotal moments of Fuyuko’s past, Kawakami expertly reveals how independence morphs into debilitating loneliness. Candid and searing, Kawakami’s latest is another brilliantly rendered portal into young women’s lives.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, April 1, 2022

Readers: Adult

Published: 2011 (Japan), 2022 (United States)



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