As I’ve said a number of times, I’ve been determined this year to only do challenges from my TBR, rather than rushing out to shoehorn yet more books onto the TBR, or to read at the expense of working my way through books I’ve had since October 2018 (my longest TBR-lag ever, given that I read it in vague acquisition order). Although this is a bit limiting (bye-bye Dewithon; how did I not have anything Welsh?), I am managing to do Reading Ireland in March, Australia Reading Month in (?November, I want to say?), Ali’s Du Maurier week (two books, one I won in last year’s Week, one I received in a Not So Secret Christmas parcel last Christmas), Non-Fiction November (never a problem to find non-fic on my shelf!), All Virago/All August (I have enough Viragoes and Persephones plus Dean Street Press reissues for a year of Augusts) and 20 Books of Summer. Aaaaand, I picked this book up in a charity shop last October, having read a few reviews, and found it on the shelves to read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13 this year (which runs from January to the end of March).

Hiromi Kawakami (trans. Allison Makin Powell) – “The Nakano Thrift Shop”

(07 October 2019, charity shop)

Restless young Hitomi settles into a job working at Mr Nakano’s thrift shop (to be honest, I hadn’t really realised they had secondhand/thrift shops in Japan, for some reason), where she works with the monosyllabic Takeo and deals with a range of odd customers and sellers. Relationships ebb and flow and, like in “Convenience Store Woman”, Hitomi falls into an awkward and rather unsatisfying relationship with her colleague, while Mr Nakano himself is a bit of a ladies’ man but gets into scrapes because of this. Mr Nakano then starts to make some changes, but will Hitomi ever make a move to strike out on her own? The last little section is a bit surprising, as we feel like we’ve settled into the shop and its associated sales and hangers-on forever, then … but it works well.

It’s quite flat and somehow floaty feeling, as Japanese novels I read so often seem to be, but also charming and absorbing and a cast of awkward characters try to negotiate one another. Note there are some cats but nothing happens to them apart from them being the catalyst for a row, and one dog that is very minor and disappears very much off-screen.

In a very good serendipity moment for Bookish Beck (who collects such things in her own reading), both this book and “Life’s a Beach”, another bright pink covered book which I actually read immediately before this one (I’ve reviewed out of order this month, and had one from January in this month with two that will seep over from here into March …) featured life-size cardboard cut-out figures of people. I don’t recall these appearing in many other books I’ve read, so the effect was rather striking!

Watch out for my State of the TBR post tomorrow, where I will be sharing some lovely new acquisitions. I know, like I need more books …