Friday, January 15, 2010

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama

The Street of a Thousand BlossomsI heard many good things about this author, I finally got a copy of one of her books and then waited two years to actually read it :( And it still would probably have been unread, if it weren't for the girls in my bookclub who chose it as a monthly read.

The novel essentially tells the story of two orphaned brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji living in Tokyo and growing up under the care of their beloved grandparents. The readers follow the boy from their childhood, through the teenage years until their adulthood. In the thirty years much is happening. Tragedy strikes more than once, or even twice. Japan goes through tragic times together with the rest of the world fighting in WWII, millions of people die as a result of Hiroshima's and Nagasaki's nuclear bombing and in the midst of all that two boys grow up with dreams to become something more than just two more dutiful Japanese citizens.

As I have already mentioned in my bookclub, I fell absolutely and irrevocably under Gail Tsukiyama's spell. Her writing is exactly what I expect from the best literary fiction, it's very lyrical, with a lot of passages that I woud want to commit to memory and with wonderful characters. Why are they so wonderful, you ask? Because they are painfully human and very real. Not only Hiroshi and Kenji, but their friends, their grandparents and everyone they meet on the road of life, deal with life, death, loss, tragedy and happiness in their own ways and the more I got to read about them the more they seemed like people I'd love to know and the less like a characters on the pages of the book. Some are strong and determined to get what they want despite the circumstances, others just 'go with the flow' simply to survive and a few can't make it at all.

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms is not an action packed book, it's rather a panorama of people's lives in the midst and aftereffects of great tragedy. And because it's Japanese, the author imparts a lot of wisdom that I think I always like the most about Asian fiction. Most of it is simple but it has stronger impact on my own thoughts and actions than any self-help book out there. I know that not everyone will appreciate this novel for precisely the same reasons I loved it so much: it's not about one main plot so much as about the characters, relationships and dealing or not dealing with whatever may come. It's one of those books that once you get familiarized with the people in there, you pick your favorites, most intriguing or most tragic and then you just want the story to go on and on. You want to know what happens in their lives after you turn the last page. I am now ready to go to the bookstore and get every single book Ms. Tsukiyama penned.