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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Ten Loves of Nishino

Kawakami Hiromi

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To purchase The Ten Loves of Nishino

Title: The Ten Loves of Nishino
Author: Kawakami Hiromi
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 172 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Ten Loves of Nishino - US
The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino - UK
The Ten Loves of Nishino - Canada
Les 10 amours de Nishino - France
Die zehn Lieben des Nishino - Deutschland
I dieci amori di Nishino - Italia
Los amores de Nishino - España
  • Japanese title: ニシノユキヒコの恋と冒険
  • US title: The Ten Loves of Nishino
  • UK title: The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino
  • Translated by Allison Markin Powell

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective approach; solid character(s) study

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 29/7/2013 Christine Ferniot
The Japan Times . 13/7/2019 Nicolas Gattig
The Times . 7/6/2019 James Marriott
Wall St. Journal . 14/6/2019 Sam Sacks

  From the Reviews:
  • "Est-il une illusion, l'incarnation d'un désir ou l'expression d'un souvenir ? Les 10 Amours de Nishino est une chanson qu'on murmure à voix basse et qui nous envoûte à l'infini." - Christine Ferniot, L'Express

  • "Through his various incarnations, Nishino becomes a catalyst for each woman to explore her own feelings and sexuality. As clueless about love and commitment as Nishino, most women dump him when the affair runs its course. (...) Kawakami captures beautifully the sadness of fleeting affairs, the loneliness of the playboy who cannot keep a lasting attachment." - Nicolas Gattig, The Japan Times

  • "The novelís chapters, each recounting a brief dalliance, provide a tantalizingly incomplete mosaic of this elusive Casanova, from his lusty school days to his sad final years seducing housewives. (...) The Freudian explanation is anticlimactic, not least because it rings false -- people are greater than the sum of their childhood traumas, after all. As with Nishino himself, itís mystery that makes Ms. Kawakamiís book so enticing." - Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

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:

       Each of the ten chapters in The Ten Loves of Nishino (published -- just to be different ? -- in the UK as: The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino) is narrated by a woman who was involved with Yukihiko Nishino. There is occasional overlap -- one of them, Kanoko, first appears as a former girlfriend Nishino invites to dinner when he is involved with another woman before then narrating a chapter of her own, and the resurfaces in the account of yet another woman -- but on the whole these are distinct episodes, scenes from a life that range from memories of when Nishino was a teenager through him in his fifties; the women, too, when they are involved with Nishino range from relatively young to a grandmother (though their accounts are often from long after their time with him), with there often being a significant age-disparity between him and them. While there's a loose progression, the 'ten loves' are also not presented strictly chronologically.
       At one point Nishino observes:

All the girls I've ever known, at least, they've all been the same, down to the last.
       But that's not really true; they are a varied lot -- and his relationships with them also come at varied points in their lives, from those just beginning independent lives ("More than anything else, I was afraid of growing up and, without even knowing it, becoming exactly like my mother", one woman remembers of her teen-time) to women who are married and have families. The common element is that the relationships are finite, the women attracted to Nishino -- and sometimes even convinced they are in love with him ("I may not have liked him, but I was in love with Nishino", one woman admits) -- but the relationships collapsing in one way or another -- rarely truly abruptly, but rather with a sense of drifting apart, with Nishino often staying in some sort of touch with former lovers, or occasionally reconnecting.
       In his never-ending quest for love, Nishino recognizes that he is part of the problem: "Why can't I love someone properly ?" he wonders aloud as he separates from another lover; "Why am I so messed up ?" he asks. While he behaves quite romantically and seductively -- and generally quite kindly --, he obviously has issues. The root issue would appear to be the tragedy of the death of his considerably older sister after she had had and lost a child, with her shadow (and, in one case before her death, her actual self) seeming to loom over all his relationships (though only brought more obviously to the fore in some of the narratives). So also Nishino seems to yearn for a particular type or ideal, marked by his sister; indeed, at least one of the women he is drawn to: "looked exactly like his sister" .....
       As one woman observes: "This boy is not easy to pin down, I thought to myself". We see him from thoughtful young teenager to university student putting his first feelers out, still largely a blank slate ("He had neither crimes nor accomplishments to his credit, nor any particular qualifications. Back then, his hobby was seeking out clay sewer pipes"), to successful company man (where he gets involved with one of his superiors). He's always appealed to women -- even more obviously so as a mature adult, checking off many of the right boxes:
     For one thing, Nishino was quote a handsome man. Secondly, he was clean-cut. Furthermore, Nishino was kind and courteous. And to top it all off, he had a steady job with a respectable company.
       So he's no layabout Don Juan -- and yet he remains a crafty seducer, drawing -- and arguably often imposing -- himself into the orbits, lives, and minds of women. Yet he proves unable to draw things out into actually settling in and down; when he gets to something as serious as a marriage proposal (or the hope/plan to die together ...) it only comes at some unrealistic point, the relationships already past saving.
       It makes for an effective if naturally somewhat limited character-portrait of the man. Nishino remains a somewhat shadowy presence: seen and heard quite extensively, and yet only in these brief spots in these women's lives, with many blanks remaining. His essential hollowness -- and admission, near the end of his life: "I have never, to this day, loved a woman, in the true sense of the world" -- are masked by his almost ubiquitous friendly and comfortably ingratiating manner and smile, which it remains hard to see behind/through. The fundamental question, of why so many women fall for him, in one way or another -- yet rarely absolutely -- does remain somewhat open, and he does remain rather a cipher -- to the women, to himself, to the reader.
       If ostensibly always about Nishino, this is, of course, also very much the women's book -- their stories, and their lives, in which Nishino happened to play a(n often significant (and memorable) -- but very temporary) role. Here, too, we only see slivers of their lives, rather than full pictures, but Kawakami's rich, varied cast does make for intriguing glimpses of these different lives, and ultimately an impressive panoramic view of contemporary Japanese women's lives.
       Leaving aside a few odd touches -- notably Nishino's final telephone call to one of the women ("I don't think I'm going to make it" he tells her in his usual upbeat tone, after apologizing for calling her when she is laid low by a fever) -- The Ten Loves of Nishino is a neat little semi-ronde of a novel, quite well balanced between the man at its center and the women here who reveal themselves, and him, in their various portrait-reminiscences.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 May 2019

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The Ten Loves of Nishino: Reviews: Other books by Kawakami Hiromi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Kawakami Hiromi (川上 弘美) was born in 1958.

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© 2019-2024 the complete review

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