Categories: Contemporary, Translated Fiction
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Breasts and Eggs tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.
On another hot summer’s day ten years later, Natsu, on a journey back to her native city, struggles with her own indeterminate identity as she confronts anxieties about growing old alone and childless.
I picked up Breasts and Eggs as a last-minute addition to my WITmonth reads and while I was curious about the book, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. This is divided in two books: the first was originally published as a novella, and it’s about Natsuko, her sister Makiko and her niece Midoriko as they struggle with expectations and frustrations of being a woman in the society they live in. The second book takes place eight years later as Natsuko has published her first book and become an acclaimed author, but is now struggling with her next book and with growing old alone and childless.
As mentioned above, the first part was originally published as a novella and now expanded into a full book with the inclusion of the second part, and there is a very clear division between both, which don’t really converse with each other as much as one would hope. I enjoyed the first part very much, the building of tension and the odd fixation of Makiko with breast implants. It was weird, funny, sensitive, sharp and humane.
The second part has a different tone, although we still follow Natsuko: the story meanders a lot more, taking us to revisit more of Natsuko’s past, meet other characters and go through a few dream-like (hallucinations?) scenes. I am not a fan of dream scenes, so it’s unsurprising that I liked the first part better, and I had the distinct impression this second part was too long. Still, I enjoyed it very much, the author has truly a talent in bringing characters to life with vibrant personalities and powerful dialogue, which is where her story truly shines. I felt it was easy to relate to Natsuko and her family, despite us being so different, and I was very excited to read about her experiences with writing, meeting authors, going to events. Solitude and loneliness permeate this story, giving it a slightly sad tone, but it also shines with kindness and hope.
This was an incredible, thought-provoking read. I think for many readers this will be too slow, with too much meandering, but other readers might enjoy immersing themselves in the life of Natsuko and the people who cross paths with her. A brilliant exploration of the lives and struggles of women in Japan (especially working class) regarding beauty, aging, the pressures of motherhood, sex. Truly an incredible book!