Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop

Yagisawa Satoshi

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

To purchase Days at the Morisaki Bookshop

Title: Days at the Morisaki Bookshop
Author: Yagisawa Satoshi
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 146 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Days at the Morisaki Bookshop - US
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop - UK
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop - Canada
La Librairie Morisaki - France
Die Tage in der Buchhandlung Morisaki - Deutschland
I miei giorni alla libreria Morisaki - Italia
Mis días en la librería Morisaki - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Japanese title: 森崎書店の日々
  • Translated by Eric Ozawa

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : has some charm, but doesn't scratch many of its surfaces nearly hard enough

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ A 24/5/2023 I.Hijiya-Kirschnereit
The Japan Times . 19/8/2023 Eric Margolis
The LA Times . 3/7/2023 Stuart Miller
The Straits Times . 11/11/2023 Clement Yong

  From the Reviews:
  • "Aber zum Glück werden wir nicht mit einem Schnellkurs in Literaturgeschichte oder mit Inhaltsangaben traktiert. Was wir beim Lesen mitbekommen, ist das entschleunigte Leben inmitten von Büchern, das wohltuend Analoge und Überschaubare einer mit Humor geschilderten Binnenwelt, in der der Onkel, der selbst das plötzliche Verschwinden seiner Ehefrau vor einigen Jahren zu verkraften hatte, Takako auf burschikose, aber empathische Weise seelisch auf die Sprünge hilft. Im zweiten Teil des Buchs geschieht dann das Überraschende (…..) Doch warum dann ausgerechnet diesen japanischen Roman lessen ? Weil er kurzweilig geschrieben und verdammt gut übersetzt ist. Und weil er nicht in Nostalgie schwelgt, sondern uns bei aller Kuriosität sehr heutig und hautnah kommt. Da ist das japanische Ambiente nur ein zusätzlicher Unterhaltungsfaktor." - Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "It’s a breezy, charming novel that’s cliched at times but also has meaningful messages wrapped up in its pages. (...) Yagisawa has written an impassioned call for empathy, asking each of us to be willing to accept help and be helpful in turn. However, the narrative developments that achieve this message and Takako’s reactions throughout the story can seem contrived to offer cheap emotional impact. Likewise, the quirky, humorous characters that populate the book’s pages can be delightful but also cartoonish." - Eric Margolis, The Japan Times

  • "The early pages are bogged down with clunky exposition and clichéd writing (or translating) (.....) Still, the book’s vibe makes it pleasant company for an afternoon in the park with a snack, though it will still leave you feeling peckish." - Stuart Miller, The Los Angeles Times

  • "A colossus on international bestseller lists, this novella about the mind-expanding effect a Tokyo bookshop has on an ordinary office lady is unfortunately twee to the point of semi-blandness and lacks ambition. It is part of a wave of feel-good, easily digestible books now emerging from East Asia, seemingly written to cater to that most indulgent instinct of book lovers -- their love for the transformative space of the bookshop. (...) As text, this is too mild to be satisfying, and is perhaps more suited as a good stress-relieving or commuting read." - Clement Yong, The Straits 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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is narrated by Takako, twenty-five years old when she begins her story with quite the personal blow, when:

Hideaki, the boyfriend I'd been going out with for a year, suddenly blurted out, "I'm getting married."
       Hideaki -- a co-worker, no less ! -- is, however, not proposing -- he is letting her know that he is marrying someone else (who also works for the same company ...). Not that he doesn't want to still hook up with Takako on the side on occasion .....
       Takako takes it hard, quits her job, and retreats to her apartment. Her mother is the only one she tells what happened -- but mom apparently eventually passes on the word to Takako's uncle Satoru, who, like Takako, also lives in Tokyo (not that she bothered looking him up since she moved there; she hasn't seen him for a decade or so). Takako knows Satoru took over the bookshop her great-grandfather had founded, and he makes her an offer: room and board there in exchange for her helping out some at the store that he runs all by himself.
       Recognizing that she needs to do something -- and that her dwindling savings will only cover her rent and living costs in her current circumstances for so long -- Takako lets herself be talked into the arrangement. (In the rather typical simplistic way much of the novel operates, she doesn't bother actually going to the shop to see what it looks like or what she is getting herself into first, but rather just moves out of her old place and shows up at her uncle's doorstep.)
       The Morisaki Bookshop is located in the packed-with-used-bookshops Jimbocho area of Tokyo -- to which she'd never gone. Satoru's shop specializes in modern literature. It isn't very busy, but Satoru gets by. And while he doesn't live in the building that houses the shop, there's a room for Takako on the second floor.
       While living in a bookshop may be many readers' idea of nirvana, it doesn't mean that much to Takako: when a customer asks her: "Are you a reader ?" she responds emphatically: "Definitely not". Three guesses how long that lasts ..... Yes, she picks up some books, and becomes quite the enthusiast: "It was as if a love of reading had been sleeping somewhere deep inside me all this time, and then it suddenly sprang to life". She also interacts with the store's clientele -- and visits the nearby café where her uncle is a regular, Saveur.
       Despite its title, Takako doesn't actually spend too many days at the Morisaki Bookshop. The conclusion of the first part of the two-part novel has her confront Hideaki and finally apparently get some closure there; the second part then opens a year and half later after she had left the bookshop, finding another job and living on her own. This second part of the book, too, brings a relative she hasn't seen in years back into her life -- her uncle Satoru's wife, Momoko.
       Yes, Satoru had also suffered a blow during the time before Takako had come to live at the store: his wife had walked out on him, pretty much without a word or explanation. And now she had returned. This brings Takako back to the bookshop neighborhood and her uncle's life again. She learns more about Momoko -- including when she goes on a revealing excursion into the mountains with her --, and, at Saveur, she also meets someone who had often visited the bookshop, Akira Wada, a young man working in publishing who has since been dumped by his girlfriend.
       Days at the Morisaki Bookshop is an odd, low-key kind of story, mostly bobbing along the emotional surface. There are serious matters here -- the way Hideaki treated her obviously hit Takako very hard, and Momoko (and Satoru) have had difficult matters to deal with -- but Yagisawa doesn't dig very deep into them. Both Takako and Momoko reacted to their initial hurts by withdrawing -- Takako quitting her job and retreating to her room, and Momoko by simply disappearing -- and there is generally a sense of a go-it-alone isolation in the novel, as we don't really get to know the characters very well, not even Takako.
       When Takako first joins him, Satoru does explain to her that:
     Even though we think of it as an independent business, what matters in the industry more than anything are the relationships you have with people. I guess that's probably true of the world in general.
       Yet the relationships in the novel are generally -- until the very end, when there's bit of a sense of family coming together -- of the sort which Takako finds herself at the beginning, so superficial that she can be involved with a man but oblivious that he is dating (and very serious about) someone else as well. Hence it's also unsurprising that Takako didn't bother looking Satoru up when she moved to Tokyo, or had never visited the bookshop that had been in the family for generations. (She also doesn't seem to have any friends, and even her mother is just a distant presence who doesn't figure very much in her life.)
       Similarly, we get very little sense of Takako's reading, beyond that she becomes passionate about it. The mention of titles and authors may well resonate more strongly with Japanese readers more familiar with these, but there's so little discussion of her actual reading that one suspects even then it comes across as little more than slightly suggestive name-dropping.
       The two parts of the novel are also very much separate life-chapters, with the jump from one to another also leaving questions unanswered, as we get few indications from Takako how she has evolved over the time between them. The situations Takako, Satoru, and Momoko have to deal with are interesting enough, and there's something to be said for Yagisawa's verging-on-the-oblique approach to these, but ultimately the narrative remains too much surface, with only a few flashes of real depth.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 June 2023

- Return to top of the page -


Days at the Morisaki Bookshop: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Japanese author Yagisawa Satoshi (八木沢里志) was born in 1977.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2023 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links