The Makioka Sisters and how soon is too soon?

I am always hesitant to write too much about the plot of the books I read, it always ends up very vague and not very interesting which makes me a very unsuitable to write book reviews. Even when I want to gush about my favorite parts I feel like I need to hold back, just in case there is someone out there who hasn’t read it yet, be it a month after publication or a hundred years.

How long after publication does one wait until spilling the beans so to speak? how soon is too soon? Do we have to use spoiler alerts forever?

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. I always assumed the title was the same in Japanese, so something like まきおか姉妹 or まきおか物語 (like Little Women) but I found out after trying to talk about it with other Japanese people that the title is 細雪 (sasameyuki, or light snow fall), so, completely different.

Even though I’ve know about this book ever since I got into Japanese literature and it is one of the greats, THE classic basically, it has even been translated into Norwegian (in 2015), I didn’t know anything about it, except for it being about the Makioka sisters obviously.

Reading the synopsis on the back I felt a trifle annoyed, thinking that perhaps they would like to just write out the whole ending and spare me 530 pages? (I can be a very sarcastic person and I apologize in advance, it is one of my character flaws and a great burden). Going from knowing nothing about the plot I felt like I had been spoiled it all as they wrote as far as “She has a series of love affairs, bears a child, and ends up as the wife of a bartender”. But I was determined to enjoy the book anyway and delved into the story. (Spoiler alert: it does not spoil the book)

I was able to overcome my prior prejudice and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am always a bit apprehensive about classics as they can sometimes be hard to get into, but I found the Makioka sisters to not belong in this category.

I hadn’t really thought about how old this particular translation/edition is, but it struck me as I came across a footnote explaining what sushi is. Nowadays it feels like that is common knowledge, with sushi places in just about every country, but back in 1958 when this was first translated and released, sushi must have been a lot less common or maybe even unknown outside of Japan.

It spans such a long time that I usually wasn’t sure what year we were in, but I felt it really wasn’t that important. I mean, yes, the time period is very important because of the historical side of it, but I, personally, was more drawn into the personal lives of the characters. I have never had much sense regarding the historical aspects of things, history class was very difficult for me because I couldn’t relate to the events nor remember the dates, but enough about that.

There were many characters and names, but as you were drawn into the story it wasn’t too hard to keep track of them all.

With Little Women, I think we all have a favorite sister, a sister that maybe we look up to or that resembles ourself the most. But with the Makioka Sisters I couldn’t find one like that. They all have their fine points and their flaws (as do we all), but I couldn’t root for one more of the other. I liked them all the same and was invested in their lives, but nothing outside of that. The one I liked the best was Teinosuke, I admired him for being such a great husband, and brother-in-law, and father. (Let’s not talk of Taeko).

I enjoyed the story greatly, seeing all the different paths human lives can take. However I am not sure if it will be a reread for me or not, and it is definitely not on the list of books to get hardcovers of yet, but, if in the future I find myself rereading it, it might get onto that list, we’ll see.

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