Disclaimer: I am a HUGE Yukio Mishima fan. Like most of his other novels, this book shows off his wonderful writing style and prose. Probably the best two aspects of this novel are the prose and the theme. What is weakest (as many other reviewers state) is the characterization.
Etsuko is really the only character that Mishima fleshed out. Yakichi is well characterized by his constant inability to act on things. But otherwise, the remaining characters all seem to be rather flat archetypes. The pseudo-intellectual and his wife, Saburo the bumbling gardener that Etsuko lusts after, and the housekeeper (Miho was it?) who rarely appears and when she does she is a sniveling mess.
Now on to one point: Koreyoshi Kurahara directed an AMAZING adaptation of this novel. This is one of those very rare instances where I think the film adaptation was better than the novel. Knowing Mishima and his fondness for stage and screen, I think he may have imagined the story playing out almost as a play or on the screen but then adapted it to a novel form. This is also apparent because of the setting mostly in and around the family household. Plus, the dinner near the end is so much creepier with Beethoven's 5th symphony being played loudly by one of the family members.
Link for the Criterion release of the film (in a set): Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara (Intimidation, The Warped Ones, I Hate But Love, Black Sun, Thirst for Love) (Criterion Collection)
The theme however, and the philosophical questions posed, are deep and meaningful. The relationship of Etsuko, widowed and involved in a romantic relationship with her father-in-law is very strange yet rooted in classical literature and psychology. The constant reminders of the decay of the classic Japanese family is apparent with every page.
Etsuko is really the only morally strong character - and I mean that because she stands up for her beliefs, misguided as they may be. It's interesting to see the other characters talk a line of BS, but really fail to say anything meaningful or to act on their own beliefs. The fact that they are so ineffectual serves as a metaphor for the traditional Japanese country families who wanted things to get better, and always talked about making things better, but never acted on it.
Mishima constantly bemoaned the future of Japan, believing Japanese tradition was being sacrificed in the name of progress. This message is much more clearly illustrated in his other novels I feel. I will list a few recommended novels by this amazing author, but suffice to say the Sea of Fertility tetrology is one of his most important contributions to world literature. Yukio Mishima committed seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide) just after finishing 'Decay of the Angel' the final book in that series.
Other Mishima novels to read (probably before this one):
Spring Snow: The Sea of Fertility, 1
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
After the Banquet
And for some amazing short stories:
Acts of Worship: Seven Stories
I have read many, but not all of Mishima's works, so please add any other recommendations under comments. Thanks!
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: VINTAGE ARROW - MASS MARKET; 1 edition (1 February 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780099530275
- ISBN-13: 978-0099530275
- ASIN: 0099530279
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 141 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 316,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)