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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Kinshu

by
Miyamoto Teru


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Kinshu



Title: Kinshu
Author: Miyamoto Teru
Genre: Novel
Written: 1982 (Emg. 2005)
Length: 196 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Kinshu - US
Kinshu - UK
Kinshu - Canada
Kinshu - India
Le brocart - France
  • Autumn Brocade
  • Japanese title: 錦繍
  • Translated by Roger K. Thomas

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective and affecting

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 6/11/2005 Susan Salter Reynolds
San Francisco Chronicle . 6/11/2005 William Cherau
The Washington Times . 1/1/2006 Anna Chambers


  From the Reviews:
  • "The coexistence of sadness and joy and the effort to overcome bad karma are the themes of a novel filled with gray skies and ice-covered trees." - Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Hesitancy pervades Kinshu like a soft stutter as Aki and Yasuaki try to separate what felt good and right from the agonized memory that defines their shared history. The sins that can never be cast off have perhaps begun to fray a little, giving them some room to piece together what was never supposed to be remembered. (...) Miyamoto, a prize-winning author in Japan, writes with an unfaltering, quiet authority." - William Cherau, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "In this work, existential crisis after existential crisis force the characters to question whether one can shape one's own karma -- rather than construct one's own soul, as a Western reader might have put it. And herein lies the Westerner's entree into the book as more than an observer of Japanese culture. Mr. Miyamoto's delicately woven tale of romance, violated and painfully relinquished, provides a satisfying taste of what it means to grapple with fate at the intersection of modernity and tradition." - Anna Chambers, The Washington Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Kinshu is an epistolary novel, an exchange of letters over the course of close to a year between a woman and a man who had divorced ten years earlier, when they were still in their mid-twenties. They meet again by chance on a gondola at a mountain resort, but barely speak -- but the woman, Katsunuma Aki, feels compelled to get in touch with her former husband, and begins this correspondence.
       The event that tore them apart ten years earlier still weighs on both of them, and the epistolary conversation that develops is an attempt by each to come to terms with it and with what has become of their lives. A decade earlier Aki's husband, Yasuaki, took a nightclub hostess to a hotel who tried to kill him and then committed suicide. Yasuaki was severely injured but survived, but he and Aki went their separate ways; Yasuaki had also worked for Aki's father in a construction company which he was eventually likely to take over, but that professional relationship was also severed. In the letters Yasuaki for the first time explains what happened that night (and what led up to it), and each considers what has happened to them since then.
       Aki has remarried and now has a son named Kiyotaka. Kiyotaka is eight years old and has cerebral palsy, which Aki has had some trouble dealing with -- though he is someone she also loves dearly and has devoted herself to. Her new husband doesn't figure much in her letters, not so much because she doesn't want to mention him to Yasuaki but because he truly doesn't figure very much in her personal life (including sexually -- they haven't been intimate for years).
       Yasuaki's life has been more tumultuous, as he has moved from job to job, and woman to woman.
       The letters are fairly long and detailed, each focussing on matters of importance to the writer as they get things off their chest that they have been unable to share with anyone else. The accounts are soul-baring and revealing, and Miyamoto moves the narrative along well -- there's even considerable suspense.
       Rather than a true conversation, these are more like two monologues, as each, at least in part, writes contrary to the others' wishes. The writing -- the recounting of these pent-up and not properly dealt with events and feelings -- does prove cathartic, the writers in a sense coming together in understanding what their (separate) futures can now hold.
       There are a few jarring cultural touches, such as when Yasuaki praises his former wife:

Moreover, I recall you being very compliant. And that's not just flattery; I really mean it.
       But then these both are far from perfect people, stubborn and self-focussed. Both their accounts and the way they reveal themselves work surprisingly well: far from merely indulging in self-pitying wallows each tries to get at the root of what troubles them, working their way through their issues. In both cases, the discovery of the correspondence by another also helps them move on.
       Kinshu is an appealing and affecting novella, cleverly conceived and written. The stories Aki and Yasuaki tell are engaging, and a surprising whole comes together out of these sometimes seemingly very disparate parts.

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Links:

Kinshu: Reviews: Miyamoto Teru: Other books by Miyamoto Teru under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Miyamoto Teru (宮本輝) was born in 1947.

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© 2005-2012 the complete review

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