I’ve finally managed to read a book for Women In Translation Month – hooray! I’ve always been really bad at doing this, as I do try to do challenges from my TBR shelf and never seem to have one. But I got hold of this from my friend Meg back in June and here I am managing to have read and now review it. I can’t say I’m able to say an awful lot about it, but I have at least had a go.

Sayaka Murata – “Convenience Store Woman” (trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori)

(09 June 2019, Bookcrossing)

Keiko has worked in the convenience store since she was 18, and she’s now in her mid-30s; she knows its every way and lives and breathes it, sharing in her narrative how she works out the minute fluctuations in what she can expect to sell and to whom. She’s clearly different in some way, and her family and friends pressurise her to be more conforming, but she doesn’t know how to do that. She feels she has to adopt her colleagues’ mannerisms and ways of speaking in order to construct her own personality (while noting that her friends tend towards matching each other over time and with new trends, too, so maybe she’s just a more extreme or self-aware example).

Keiko adopts a colleague and immediately sees she has more of a place in the world – but she does think/speak of him and treat him a bit like a stray dog. I can’t work out whether their relationship is funny or depressing, to be honest.

With a deadpan first-person narrative which is reminiscent of other Japanese writers I’ve read (e.g. Banana Yashimoto), you find yourself rooting for this strange girl who is just trying to live her life and not make too much of a mark on the world, while trying to serve the convenience store world the best she can. I have a horrible feeling there’s some massive message or metaphor that I’ve missed, but anyway, I did enjoy it, and would read more by this author/translation pair.