I listened to the audiobook of Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami on Scribd in the past week. The book is translated to English by Sam Bett and David Boyd. I’ve been meaning to read it since I found out that it had been recommended by one of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami. From the beginning of the chapter one, I was totally hooked and if it wasn’t for my busy schedule, I would have finished it earlier.
The novel is about Natsuko Natsum, a 30-year-old writer who had published a book and short pieces in magazines is figuring out her life and the choices she made, all the good and bad she had in her childhood, the early passing of her mother, etc. She is visited by her older sister Makiko and her daughter Midoriko who has been giving Makiko a silent treatment for months.
Makiko is in hunt for a cosmetic clinic in Tokyo to enhance her breasts whereas Midoriko, being at the beginning of her adolescent, is concerned about the changes in her body and disgusted by her mother’s idea of breasts enlargement. During their visit, Natsuko and Makiko recount their childhood raised by strong women, their mother and grandmother. From these conversations between the characters and the diary entries of Midoriko, the reader was given different aspects on womanhood. It also narrates Natsuko’s struggle with her work on the second novel and more extensively on her desire to have a child. Being single and afraid of being alone at old age, she starts looking up for options.
With her stunning storytelling, Kawakami depicts the contemporary womanhood in Japan vividly. Various topics are explored such as body image issues, lifestyle choices of independent women, giving birth, sexism, etc. Through her colourful characters, she talks vibrantly on women having period and discusses eloquently on language and dialects. She convincingly argues about the choice of having children or not. It was a very rich and stimulating read with multiple thought provoking issues.
Though these are striking issues, her writing is ingeniously willowy and sophisticated that it gave me literary high throughout the read. Of course, the amazing work of translation is important and not to be omitted here.
Mieko Kawakami remarkably showcased the battles between internal force and external chaos every contemporary woman is facing. Her interview with Murakami on Lit Hub site is brilliant, too. It focused on Murakami’s portrayal of women in his novel.