Can’t-Wait Wednesday #1 | Japanese Literature: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings to spotlight the books we can’t wait to read. Typically, these books are yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was previously hosted by Breaking the Spine.

It’s the start of a new month, so I figured it’d be fun to participate in a book meme to add variety to my posts. This April, I’ll be featuring books that I’m really excited to get my hands on from the genres I usually read (contemporary fiction, mysteries/thrillers, romance, and Japanese literature), and I’ll talk about what intrigued me about it. While putting these posts together I realized that most of my highly anticipated releases are coming out this April, so I’ll be focusing on those first.

This week, I’m starting off with a book I’ve had on my TBR since February: Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs.

Breasts and Eggs

Book Information

Title: Breasts and Eggs
Mieko Kawakami
Translators: Sam Bett & David Boyd
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Europa Editions
Expected Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Goodreads Synopsis

An earlier novella published in Japan with the same title focused on the female body, telling the story of three women: the thirty-year-old unmarried narrator, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter Midoriko. Unable to come to terms with her changed body after giving birth, Makiko becomes obsessed with the prospect of getting breast enhancement surgery. Meanwhile, her twelve-year-old daughter Midoriko is paralyzed by the fear of her oncoming puberty and finds herself unable to voice the vague, yet overwhelming anxieties associated with growing up. The narrator, who remains unnamed for most of the story, struggles with her own indeterminable identity of being neither a “daughter” nor a “mother.” Set over three stiflingly hot days in Tokyo, the book tells of a reunion of sorts, between two sisters, and the passage into womanhood of young Midoriko.

In this greatly expanded version, a second chapter in the story of the same women opens on another hot summer’s day ten years later. The narrator, single and childless, having reconciled herself with the idea of never marrying, nonetheless feels increasing anxiety about growing old alone and about never being a mother. In episodes that are as comical as they are revealing of deep yearning, she seeks direction from other women in her life—her mother, her grandmother, friends, as well as her sister—and only after dramatic and frequent changes of heart, decides in favor of artificial insemination. But this decision in a deeply conservative country in which women’s reproductive rights are under constant threat is not one that can be acted upon without great drama.

Breasts and Eggs takes as its broader subjects the ongoing repression of women in Japan and the possibility of liberation, poverty, domestic violence, and reproductive ethics. Mixing comedy and realism, it is an epic life-affirming journey about finding inner strength and peace.

Why I’m Excited for It

Haruki Murakami, the monstrously famous Japanese author who also happens to be one of my favorite authors, called Kawakami as his “favorite young writer”, so… I don’t really need any more convincing than that. This novel also seems more explicitly feminist in themes than some of the Japanese female authors I’ve read, and I’m very curious as to how feminism is expressed in Japanese literature.

Is this work on your TBR? What book releases are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to leave a link to your own Can’t-Wait Wednesday post! I’d love to hear about it.

Find me on Goodreads!

9 thoughts on “Can’t-Wait Wednesday #1 | Japanese Literature: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

  1. This work is definitely on my TBR now! I’m so interested in these themes: mothers, childless women, puberty. I love all of it. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention! It’s quite long, but I’m hoping it will be an enjoyable read.

      1. I’m intimidated by the mixed reviews on Goodreads! I’m slowly learning to ignore Goodreads, though…I tend to agree with whatever niche opinion is on there, which is very…odd.

      2. You’re not alone, though. The works of fiction that tend to have high ratings were frankly underwhelming (e.g., Miller’s works), and there are some books with lower ratings that turn out to be 4.5-5 star reads for me. I’m hoping this one’s one of those!

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