I picked this up at the nearby Tsutaya, where they were having a summery display, but while this book is blue, fitting with the summery theme, it is anything but a light beach read.
What drew me to it was the cute cover and the interesting title. I bought it not knowing what it was about. It said something about a lonely whale on the cover, but quickly flipping through I deduced it would not be about a whale but actual people so I bought it.
Coming home I googled “52-hertz whale” and found out it is an actual whale. A whale of an unidentified species that calls at 52 hertz, while other whales call at around 10-30 hertz, so no one can hear its call and it remains alone. From this you might think that the book will be about lonely people and it was.
While not a very happy story throughout, you keep reading. You get invested. You want them to be happy, to find happiness. Not a light read or as easy-going as for example 「麦本三歩の好きなもの」but nonetheless a captivating read. I only cried once, I swear.
Neither we, nor the locals in the book, know much about her. It took me twenty pages to figure out her name. It is Kiko. But, her friends call her Kinako, the few she has at least. The opening line is:
明日の天気を訊くような軽い感じで、風俗やってたの？と言われた。“So did you do sex work? I was told as lightly as if asking about tomorrow’s weather.”
She is having some work done to the house she just moved to, a house out in a small town where gossip is the local currency amongst the grandmas. We see that she is not very friendly, I wouldn’t go as far as to call her unfriendly, but she keeps to herself. And she might be harboring a lot of stress or anger or both. She wants to be left alone, to live quietly by herself. She thinks of someone called An, and we get the feeling they were close but something happened and she is torn up about it. Maybe that’s the reason she came to this place, to escape.
There is a sense of tragedy, that something terrible has occured, but the book keeps you in the dark, keeps you guessing. That is not to say it is all doom and gloom, you have some little sparkles here and there but the overall feeling is sad, lonely, searching for something.
While I loved the book and gave it 5 stars on goodreads, it can be quite a heavy book, emotionally, and so be warned.
A thing I learned from this book was about an old hiragana for ‘e’. It looks like this: ゑ
One of the character’s name is さちゑ. Since it looked like る, or looked like it was in there, I thought it was an old way to write “ru” or maybe a kanji for “ru”. I posted on my instagram story with “what the f is this?? A kanji?” (I know, my language is very lady-like), and kept reading her name as Sachiru.
Two people (a coworker and “my” japanese mom whom is actually my friend’s mom) were nice enough to school me in the history of old hiragana. So I learned that her name is not Sachiru but actually Sachie. The only reason I can think of for the author using this old-ass hiragana for that character’s name is only the fact that she (the character) is an old lady. Maybe there are other reasons, however they are not apparent to me.