Apr 12, 2009

Tokyo Fiancee by Amelie Nothomb. book review

Tokyo Fiancee
Amelie Nothomb writes this as a work of fiction, though the main character has her name and Belgian background.

Tokyo Fiancee begins in 1989 when Amelie, who was born in Japan and lived five years there, returns to Tokyo to learn the language and reacquaint herself with the country.

What better way to accomplish this than to get a Japanese boyfriend? Though this was not a plan, Amelie becomes involved with her student, Rinri, a university student whom she tutors in French. The book covers Rinri's cross-cultural friendship with Amelie, and his courtship, which includes trips to different tourist sites in Japan, including a climb of Mt. Fuji to watch the sunrise, and several luxurious days on the island of Sado.

Only age 21 when she returns to Japan for the first time since her childhood, Amelie has all the vigor and impatience of youth and tells Rinri she is energized by tall mountains and heights. Thus her solo foray into snowy mountains, where she gets lost and barely survives an overnight blizzard.

How does this show of independence sit with Rinri, who has given her an engagement ring and gotten the approval of both sets of parents for their eventual marriage?

I enjoyed the insights into Japanese culture and food, the depiction of the gentlemanly Rinri, and the way that Amelie is able to handle cultural differences while at the same time trying to become more Japanese. There is a lot of good natured humor and the book is easy reading. I finished it in three sittings. I enjoyed it but the ending left me wondering a little....

The descriptions of her mad rush up and down Mt. Fuji, the natural beauty of Japan, and her frankness about the culture also make the book worthwhile.

"While I waited, I was witness to an extraordinary sight. After midnight, luminous processions began to climb the mountain. Apparently, there were people courageous enough to attempt the ascent at night, no doubt to avoid spending too much time waiting for sunrise in the cold air. For no one should miss the ceremony of the sunrise."(p. 81)

(The novel is translated from the French by Alison Anderson, Europa editions).

Submitted for the Lost in Translation Reading Challenge.

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5 comments:

  1. Not the way I would go about it. Of course by reading it, she could come across differently. Seems to be in a rush.

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  2. Amelie is only 21 in the novel when she returns to Japan for the first time since her childhood. She has all the vigor and impatience of youth and says she is energized by tall mountains and heights. Thus her solo foray into snowy mountains, where she barely survives a blizzard.

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  3. I've added this to my tbr list now as well!!

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  4. I finished this book today and enjoyed it thoroughly! It was refreshing to get a European view of Japan.

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  5. When it comes to Amelie Nothomb I absolutely love her.

    I have read her in French for the most part (I am French) but also in English when I could not find it in the French language (I live in the States)

    Amelie has a style which is bitting, sarcastic, funny etc...and I do not see how it would translate well. So maybe it is lost in translation ( no pun intended) :D Still I will read her in English if I can't find her books in French

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