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The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi

The Waiting Years (1957)

by Fumiko Enchi

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This is a quiet Japanese novel written in the 1950s, but set around the turn of the 20th century, I believe. Tomo, wife of a well-to-do government official, has reached the ripe old age of 30, and has been instructed by her husband to purchase a concubine for him. The novel is an interesting study of the family dynamics, as the concubine settles into the family, and then over the years, when Tomo must find another, younger concubine for her husband. It is written in a style, which I find present in many Japanese novels, but have difficulty in describing, that is formal and which seems to distance the reader from the emotions of the characters. Or perhaps it is that the characters themselves distance themselves from the emotions, and act strictly according to the rules of the society in which they find themselves. In any event, I enjoyed this novel, and would read other books by this author. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Sep 30, 2015 |
a haunting story of the life of the wife of a Samurai in 18th century Japan. Tasked to find concubines for her husband, Tomo only scores retribution through her instructions for a non-traditional burial upon her death. clunky translation at some points, but riveting story telling. ( )
  celerydog | Mar 6, 2015 |
Quietly presented drama, marital tension, emotional cruelty, repressed emotions. In the beginning of the novel the wife reluctantly buys a concubine for her husband. There were a couple of chapters in the middle that I didn't find as effective as the surrounding ones, but the very last chapter is a little gem. This is a perceptive and subtle novel brimming with tears, which is why I have some issues with what seem to be less subtle choices in the translation.

The Kodansha paperbacks in this series are lovely, by the way. ( )
1 vote vaellus | Jun 6, 2007 |
A rather depressing tale of a Japanese woman's experiences in the late 18th and 19th centuries, beginning with the task of finding her husband a mistress. Much family drama throughout. The translation was a bit awkward, but the story was interesting. ( )
  digitalmaven | Aug 22, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fumiko Enchiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bester, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 477002889X, Paperback)

The beautiful, immature girl whom she took home to her husband was a maid only in name. Tomo's real mission had been to find him a mistress. Nor did her secret humiliation end there. The web that his insatiable lust spun about him soon trapped another young woman, and another ... and the relationships between the women thus caught were to form, over the years, a subtle, shifting pattern in which they all played a part. There was Suga, the innocent, introspective girl from a respectable but impoverished family; the outgoing, cheerful, almost boyish Yumi; the flirtatious, seductive Miya, who soon found her father-in-law more dependable as a man than his brutish son.... And at the center, rejected yet dominating them all, the near tragic figure of the wife Tomo, whose passionate heart was always, until that final day, held in check by an old-fashioned code.

In a series of colorful, unforgettable scenes, Enchi brilliantly handles the human interplay within the ill-fated Shirakawa family. Japan's leading woman novelist and a member of the prestigious Art Academy, she combines a graceful, evocative style that consciously echoes the Tale of Genji with keen insight and an impressive ability to develop her characters over a long period of time. Her work is rooted deep in the female psychology, and it is her women above all-so clearly differentiated yet all so utterly feminine-who live in the memory. With The Waiting Years, a new and important literary figure makes her debut in the Western world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:30 -0400)

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Tomo, a devoted wife in charge of purchasing mistresses for her husband, also oversees the household and sacrifices her happiness and goals for the sake of the Shirakawa family.

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