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All the Lovers in the Night (2011)

by Mieko Kawakami

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1437170,874 (3.85)8
'Mieko Kawakami is a genius' - Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times From international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes ALL THE LOVERS IN THE NIGHT, an extraordinary, deeply moving and insightful story set in contemporary Tokyo. Fuyuko Irie is a freelance proofreader in her thirties. Living alone, and unable to form meaningful relationships, she has little contact with anyone other than Hijiri, someone she works with. When she sees her reflection, she's confronted with a tired and spiritless woman who has failed to take control of her own life. Her one source of solace: light. Every Christmas Eve, Fuyuko heads out to catch a glimpse of the lights that fill the Tokyo night. But it is a chance encounter with a man named Mitsutsuka that awakens something new in her. And so her life begins to change. As Fuyuko starts to see the world in a different light, painful memories from her past begin to resurface. Fuyuko needs to be loved, to be heard, and to be seen. But living in a small world of her own making, will she find the strength to bring down the walls that surround her? All The Lovers In The Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and captivating, pulsing and poetic, modern and shocking. It's another unforgettable novel from Japan's most exciting writer. Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Puzzling novel about a solitary woman heading into middle age, trying to learn about herself and the world that she never fit into. I’m sure I missed a lot, but liked it anyway. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
This ended up being a pretty luke warm reading experience. The book tells the story of a lonely and depressed woman who works from home, and tries to cope.

I think my main issue was the fact that despite having a lot in common with the main character life style wise, I had surprisingly little in common with her inner world. I felt sympathy for her, but somehow she didn't feel fleshed out enough for me to feel empathy.

I don't know how I'd categorize the story in general, maybe slice of life? Whatever the case may be, the plot held very little appeal for me, and if this book wasn't so short, I more than likely would not have finished it.

I did listen to this on audio, though, so I might have enjoyed it more as a physical read (the narrator's voice for the main character felt somehow child like, which I wan't a fan of). ( )
1 vote tuusannuuska | Dec 1, 2022 |
Fuyuko Irie isn’t having the best life. In her early 30s, she lives alone working at home as a freelance proofreader. She has virtually no friends and certainly none that keep in regular contact. Even when she worked in the office of a large publishing house, she found herself isolated and alone. Taking up alcohol hasn’t helped, though her alcoholism seems more of a lifestyle experiment than a real dependency. But a series of mishaps leads to Fuyuko meeting an older man, Mitsutsuka, with whom she shares coffee or tea and just talks. He is as close to a friend as anyone she has ever known. Perhaps he will help her become the person she would like to be. Or…

Kawakami’s protagonist is a sad woman both by circumstance and inclination. She struggles accommodating herself to her own feelings, often seeming alien to herself and others. Her work as a proofreader finds her reading for mistakes without actually reading or forming an emotional connection with the texts on which she works. Likewise she engages with people without either understanding or emotional response. Remarkably, Kawakami is able to elicit the reader’s sympathy for this character. It’s difficult not to hope that her life will blossom, yet also hard not to fear that things will get worse and worse. More likely, Fuyuko’s life will not resolve itself one way or the other.

This was an interesting read without being immensely gratifying or especially insightful, I think. Or maybe Fuyuko’s sad existence just cuts a little too close to the bone. Nevertheless, for the right person, I would definitely recommend this novel. And I’ll certainly seek out Mieko Kawakami’s next effort. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Nov 23, 2022 |
An unfortunate judicial ruling forces one to consider the challenges confronting women today. How is it possible that so few, mostly men and devout members of one Christian religion, can dictate how all women manage their own bodies? Mieko Kawakami’s latest novel is particularly apt for these times because she examines how women chose to live and the choices society forces on them.

She subtly mocks the “Madonna-Whore dichotomy” that paternalistic societies frequently inflict on women. On the one hand, women should be helpmates, marrying young and nurturing a family while, on the other, they need to evince almost impossible standards of beauty and allure. Kawakami’s protagonist, Fuyuko Irie, is a plain, introverted woman living a bland solitary existence. She comes to realize a genuine urge to connect with others while simultaneously embracing her need for seclusion—all while balancing a successful career, multiple friendships and a budding romance.

Fuyoko is a freelance proofreader in her mid-30s who has a stable income and independence. She loves her work, finding things to proof almost everywhere she goes. This is a powerful metaphor for Fuyoko’s solitary lifestyle. Proofreaders, she reveals, are taught to “never connect with the content.” The key word here is “connect,” because Fuyoko has real issues with connection. Clearly, her situation resonates with the claustrophobia we all felt during the pandemic.

As an introverted, naïve, and overly compliant person with a suppressed libido—probably the result of a previous sexual assault—Fuyoko relishes her time alone. Indeed, she looks forward to wandering Tokyo’s shopping district at night when she can be alone to embrace the darkness and light. “Why is the night so beautiful?” she wonders, “Why does it shine the way it does?” After seeing her reflection in a store window on one of these jaunts, Fuyoko realizes that she is “the dictionary definition of a miserable person.” She resolves to fix it, yet she needs to fortify herself with copious helpings of beer and sake to face venturing into social situations— “…to let go of my usual self.”

At a local culture center, Fuyoko meets Mitsutsuka. He is an older man who claims to be a high school physics teacher. Following rescuing her from an embarrassing drunken incident, they begin to bond at a cafe. He mentors her with discussions ranging from the physics of light to the music of Chopin. This appealing centerpiece to the plot offers Kawakami the opportunity to demonstrate that meaningful relationships are indeed key to finding happiness. Yet the risks they carry are real, most notably a requirement to let down one’s guard. As Fuyoko discovers, this can be quite painful for extreme introverts.

Kawakami uses Fuyoko’s female acquaintances to explore the roles other women can play in these dynamics. Hijiri Ishikawa is Fuyoko’s only friend, but this relationship is decidedly one-sided. Hijiri is her polar opposite. She is outspoken, stylish, and calculating. She uses the compliant Fuyoko as a sounding board for her catty gossip and to validate her decidedly modern world view.

Kyoko is to be admired as a successful editor for the publishing house that Fuyoko leaves in the first few pages of the book due to mocking from co-workers. Kyoko has a more traditional worldview than Hijiri and does not hide her contempt for her free-wheeling sexual lifestyle.

Noriko seems to be Fuyoko’s only acquaintance with what Japanese society views as a fulfilling life (i.e., home, successful husband, and happy children). However, as is so often the case, this turns out to be an illusion.

Kawakami’s use of a first-person narrative lends an intimate, introspective and confessional style to the book, which I greatly admire, especially her use of Fuyoko’s memories to deftly flesh out her backstory. However, the lack of a conventional plot structure can be unsettling while nonetheless being quite effective. Kawakami avoids the kind of melodrama that would tempt less skilled writers. She never prescribes, just shows without comment. A happy ending may not be in the cards for Fuyoko, yet Kawakami, by the novel’s end, does hint at a possible satisfying career option for her. ( )
1 vote ozzer | Jun 30, 2022 |
Mieko Kawakami’s range of fiction is astounding, but something her novels have in common is the theme of loneliness. Almost always one or more of her characters feels left out and different to others, but in very different ways. Fuyuko, the main character of All the Lovers in the Night, is perhaps the most obvious lonesome character so far. Everything she does is alone. Fuyuko works alone, she eats alone and she even walks alone at night. But as the story progresses, Fuyuko opens herself to the reader and to a select few other people.

It wasn’t always like this. Fuyuko used to work in an office, but didn’t really get along with others. As a teenager, she had some friends until a tragic event. But now Fuyuko feels like she is too deep into the solitary life. There are people who want to meet with her though – her colleague, her friend from school and an ex-colleague. But Fuyuko still feels awkward. To go out into society, she needs to steel herself. But more often than not, she comes off as awkward, especially when she meets Mitsutsuka. A school teacher, she finds that she can share more of herself than before. She grows to enjoy her times with Mitsutsuka who explains how Fuyuko’s favourite thing, light, works. As Fuyuko learns, her trust grows. But things always stand in her way – can she break free for happiness?

It’s difficult to describe All the Lovers in the Night. Essentially it’s the story of a troubled woman, who pales in comparison to her friends and colleagues. She’s not witty, a mother, good looking or outgoing. But Fuyuko is still interesting, despite her flaws, walls and awkwardness. She has her own problems, which are different to others. But despite being different, isn’t she allowed some happiness too?

The narrative is dreamy, star-like almost (fitting in with the theme of light, and reflection and absorption to show ourselves). Fuyuko seems to float along in the universe, with her meetings with Mitsutsuka have more of a grounded, soft illumination feel as she spends time with him. Her dealings with colleague Hiriji are like harsh light; blunt and illuminating the things Fuyuko doesn’t want to share. I did enjoy how the narrative didn’t have the stereotypical happy ending, but was more nuanced – almost like the reader can put their own spin on things. It’s less brutal than Heaven, but no less hard-hitting as Kawakami investigates the depth of a character sitting on the fringe of life.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the copy of this novel. My review is honest.

http://samstillreading,wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | May 29, 2022 |
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'Mieko Kawakami is a genius' - Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times From international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes ALL THE LOVERS IN THE NIGHT, an extraordinary, deeply moving and insightful story set in contemporary Tokyo. Fuyuko Irie is a freelance proofreader in her thirties. Living alone, and unable to form meaningful relationships, she has little contact with anyone other than Hijiri, someone she works with. When she sees her reflection, she's confronted with a tired and spiritless woman who has failed to take control of her own life. Her one source of solace: light. Every Christmas Eve, Fuyuko heads out to catch a glimpse of the lights that fill the Tokyo night. But it is a chance encounter with a man named Mitsutsuka that awakens something new in her. And so her life begins to change. As Fuyuko starts to see the world in a different light, painful memories from her past begin to resurface. Fuyuko needs to be loved, to be heard, and to be seen. But living in a small world of her own making, will she find the strength to bring down the walls that surround her? All The Lovers In The Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and captivating, pulsing and poetic, modern and shocking. It's another unforgettable novel from Japan's most exciting writer. Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

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