Days at the Morisaki Bookshop
Author: Satoshi Yagisawa
Translated from the Japanese by Eric Ozawa
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by Manilla Press (Distributed in India by HarperCollins)
MRP: Rs. 399/-
Acknowledgement: This review is in association with @bookreviewersclub and @harpercollinsin
In an era dominated by e-readers and online shopping, Satoshi Yagisawa's Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is a refreshing reminder of the irreplaceable magic of print books and secondhand bookstores. Through the eyes of the protagonist Takako, Yagisawa weaves a poignant coming-of-age story that explores themes of love, loss, family, and the restorative power of reading.
Set in the real-life Jimbocho book town of Tokyo, the novel introduces us to the quirky Morisaki Bookshop run by Takako's eccentric uncle Satoru. After a devastating heartbreak, 25-year-old Takako leaves her job and finds refuge in her uncle's bookshop. What follows is a beautiful, introspective journey as Takako heals and finds herself amidst the dusty shelves of the shop.
Yagisawa brings Jimbocho alive in all its glorious clutter of small, independent bookstores. Each shop has its own quirky character, showcasing specific genres and antiquarian books. Through lyrical descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells, the book town becomes almost a character in itself. As Takako wanders the streets, she discovers the delight of stumbling upon hidden book treasures and forging connections with fellow bibliophiles.
The analog pleasures of print come alive in scenes where Takako savors the physicality of old books - inhaling their musty scent, finding pressed flowers and annotations left behind by strangers. Yagisawa reminds us of the multi-sensory joy of reading actual books. In one passage, Takako reflects, "Only in secondhand books that you can savor encounters like this, connections that transcend time."
As Takako dives into reading classics by Dazai, Tanizaki, Akutagawa and more, we witness her inner transformation. She opens herself to new perspectives that help release the bitterness inside her. Books become portals to other worlds where she can momentarily forget her own troubles.
Through colorful characters like the gregarious booklover Sabu, the gentle bookish waitress Tomo and her shy admirer Takano, Yagisawa explores the sense of community fostered by beloved neighborhood establishments. Sabu's impassioned rants about the decline of reading will resonate with many book lovers today.
The beauty of family is poignantly depicted in Takako's evolving relationship with her eccentric uncle Satoru, who was her closest childhood playmate. Their late-night conversations crackle with humor and candor, peeling away long-held assumptions about each other. Satoru shares how the birth of Takako as a baby ignited in him a new purpose in life, adding emotional heft to their bond.
Yagisawa sensitively explores the push-pull dynamic between romantic and familial love through Satoru's history with his long-lost wife Momoko. Her sudden return after many years disrupts the harmony of the bookshop. Yet this storm leads to a cathartic reckoning with pent-up grief on both sides. Their bittersweet reunion affirms that even failed relationships can retain fragments of love.
While steeped in melancholy, the novel ends on a hopeful note. Takako emerges stronger, imbued with a newfound love of books. She leaves the nurturing harbor of the bookshop, ready to chart her own life's journey: "I vowed never to forget what my life at the bookshop had given me."
Yagisawa's meditative work is a paean to the profound impact that books can have on shaping one's inner life. It reminds us that stories have the power to heal wounds, open minds and bring disparate souls together. For any book lover, Days at the Morisaki Bookshop will rekindle the magical feeling of walking into a treasure trove of books and the joy of discovery that waits within those pages.
To Conclude, this is a hugely satisfying read that will gently tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for Takako's healing and happiness. Pick it up and let the lyrical prose transport you into the cozy, worn-in world of the Morisaki Bookshop where life unfolds one beautiful book at a time. With its timeless story and charming setting, this Japanese bestseller is sure to delight bookworms across continents.
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