Saturday, 14 April 2018

Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima


Territory Of Light by Yuko Tsushima
First published in Japanese as Hikari no Ry­obun in Japan by Gunzo in 1978 and 1979. English language translation by Geraldine Harcourt published by Penguin Classics on the 5th April 2018.

My 1970s read for my 2017-2018 Decade Challenge

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:


The Book Depository : from £9.99 (PB)
Wordery : unavailable
Waterstones : from £9.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £4.45 (PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

It is Spring. A young woman, left by her husband, starts a new life in a Tokyo apartment. Territory of Light follows her over the course of a year, as she struggles to bring up her two-year-old daughter alone. Her new home is filled with light, streaming through the windows, so bright you have to squint, but she finds herself plummeting deeper into darkness; becoming unstable, untethered. As the months come and go, and the seasons turn, she must confront what she has lost and what she will become.

At once tender and lacerating, luminous and unsettling, Territory of Light is a novel of abandonment, desire and transformation. It was originally published in twelve parts in the Japanese literary monthly Gunzo, between 1978 and 1979, each chapter marking the months in real time.

I loved this novella! It's one of those deceptively simple stories in which nothing really happens, but during its course we see how everything changes. Our story begins as our unnamed young mother and her toddler daughter move into a fourth floor apartment and ends a year later when they leave. Recently separated from her husband, the mother has to learn how to live alone, how to make her own decisions, and how to cope with the demands of her job and caring for her daughter.

I didn't realise until I came to write this review that Territory Of Light was written in the 1970s. Several aspects of the woman's relationship and deference to her estranged husband annoyed me to the extent I was muttering 'Stand up for yourself!' at my Kindle. However, for a woman to be contemplating divorce and initiating the proceedings herself forty years ago, especially in socially conservative Japan, is a strong statement of her increasing confidence and independence.

I was swept along by Tsushima's prose which is beautifully artistic in its descriptions. She focuses on light and colour to bring settings such as the apartment, the street and the park to life. Simple scenes such as cherry blossom petals falling onto a little girl are stunning and I was envious of the apartment - until the nets went up at least! The woman obviously struggles to cope and I could empathise with her determination to do her best even as she flounders.

Territory Of Light is a short book which I devoured in an afternoon, mainly because I just didn't want to set it aside and return to the real world! How people coped waiting for the original monthly magazine instalments is beyond me! I am now suffering quite a book hangover and plan to search out more of Tsushima's writing as soon as I finish this review. Hopefully this is not the only one of her books to have been translated.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yuko Tsushima / Novellas / Books from Japan

8 comments:

  1. What an interesting cover. The author is totally new to me, but that can change *smile*
    Best wishes
    Vi

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    1. Tsushima was new to me too. I love discovering great older authors because they already have a back catalogue of books to plunge into -)

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  2. It's the second line of your review after reading the synopsis that has me really wanting to read this one: "deceptively simple stories in which nothing really happens, but during its course we see how everything changes." I am so glad you brought this one to my attention.

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    1. Thank you :-)
      I hope you get to read it and enjoy it too!

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  3. Funny how context/setting can really change a story. This sounds like it was really well-written and like the author wrote about a serious topic in a really powerful way! Glad you loved it so much!

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    1. I thought Tsushima wrote an amazing book here. So glad to have stumbled across it!

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  4. You've been reading a few novellas lately! I think the time frame of a work does matter, and contextualising this one shows why the women were acting the way they did. But it seems like you recognised that all on your own. I have heard of this one before, which is why I was so invested in your review and opinion.

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    1. Yes, Territory Of Light would have a completely different feel had it been written now rather than in the 1970s.

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