Review: A True Novel by Minae Mizumura

Susan Chira reviews A True Novel in the NYT

“A True Novel” is a riveting tale of doomed lovers set against the backdrop of postwar Japan, with characters familiar to a Western audience: a rags-to-riches antihero, a tempestuous heroine who dies too young, a loyal housekeeper who tells their story. So how does the Gothic excess of “Wuthering Heights” translate to a culture better known for emotional restraint, even repression?

That is the larger concern of the novel, by the Japanese writer Minae Mizumura, who in adapting Emily Brontë’s classic has composed a fascinating meditation on cultural borrowing and the dislocation of modernity. Thankfully, Mizumura’s ambitious literary and cultural preoccupations do not overwhelm the sheer force of her narrative or the beauty of her writing (in an evocative translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter).

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