“Heaven” – Mieko Kawakami

Having read this book for a book club in Barcelona, getting through it was a bit of a struggle. It simply didn’t draw me in to continue reading it, which might have been linked to the distant way it was written. What it did do though, was open up an intensely emotional world for the reader. The bare and simple style in contrast to the brutal events of bullying being described created a harrowing mix.

Then it hit me: dying is just like sleeping. You only know you’re sleeping when you wake up the next day, but if morning never comes, you sleep forever. That must be what death is like. When someone dies, they don’t even know they’re dead.

p. 112

Its whole reading felt like an experience. It was only 50 pages in that I realised that one of the characters was male, which wasn’t necessarily evident to me until then. I ended up tracking themes throughout the story, the encounters between the two main characters or the explanation behind the book’s title for example, trying to see if some hints were given away in order to foresee the following events. It went from giving you glimpses into profound phrases, being enchanted by the little things in daily life, to presenting the contrast of all the evil that is out there in the world.

This was the sound of a rain prepared to take no prisoners. It trembled like the cry of an unknown creature, seeming to fall from the darkening sky and rise from somewhere deep in the town.

p. 143

But I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because we had nowhere else to go, no choices but to go on living in this world.

p. 167

I found it difficult to settle on a rating since it wasn’t necessarily a book that I enjoyed. I didn’t completely dislike it either, finding it “interesting” would probably sum it up best. Writing the review two and a half months after reading it, I don’t really have many memorable parts in mind anymore. Nevertheless, there was something special about its style that did catch my attention. The observations and descriptions of everyday moments created a really special atmosphere. Swaying between 2/5 and 3/5 ★, I’ll leave it with the higher rating.

I wasn’t sure how long you were supposed to watch someone walk away, but I watched until I couldn’t see her anymore. I could still see the square bottom of her skirt swing like something heavy, swatting the backs of her calves. Even after she completely disappeared, the bulky action of her skirt stayed with me.

p. 15

At the table, the TV did all the talking, a labor-saving device just like the dishwasher, freeing us from any obligation to converse.

p. 150

I would still be curious to read the author’s debut, “Breasts and Eggs” but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to other readers. All in all, it’s a story that you need to be emotionally ready for. It’s morbid and dark, while set in a seemingly innocent children’s world, which turns out to be the exact opposite of it. So do keep that in mind if you happen to be interested in getting into it.

“Heaven” – Mieko Kawakami

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-1-60945-621-4
Europa Editions Spotlight, 2021

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