Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review: The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata

Title: The Old Capital
Author: Yasunari Kawabata
Genre: Japanese Literature
Subject: Family, Daily Life
Publisher: Counterpoint
Release date: 2006, original 1962, first translation 1987
Length: 182 pages
I got this book: Through Bookcrossing

From Goodreads:
"The Old Capital tells the story of Chieko, the adopted daughter of a Kyoto kimono designer, Takichiro, and his wife, Shige.
Set in the traditional city of Kyoto, Japan, this deeply poetic story revolves around Chieko who becomes bewildered and troubled as she discovers the true facets of her past. With the harmony and time-honored customs of a Japanese backdrop, the story becomes poignant as Chieko's longing and confusion develops."

Personal opinion:
It took me a long time to read this book but I never even thought at one point to abandon the book. To me it felt like a good meal, one that you need to enjoy slowly to get the most out of it. It took me a while because I do not always have the patience for such a story and I didn't want to rush it because I knew that the strength of this book only comes out if you give it your full attention. I think that this is one of the characteristics of Japanese Literature, all though I have to admit that I only have read a few.

I really enjoyed the parts about the many Festivals of Kyoto and the references to the seasons. For the larger part of the book I had the idea that I was just reading about a young girl's every day life and not much was happening. And compared to that the latter part of the book felt rushed. Things starting to happen, but it changes the pace of the book so suddenly that it felt unnatural. Also I had the feeling that the story ended to abruptly and it didn't feel like an ending at all because there was too much left untold. I was disappointed by this because after I took a real effort to read through this with care and there is still so much stuff I want to know. Very unsatisfying. Therefore I have to reward it with 3 stars instead of 4.

It was okay.

Purchase links: Amazon
Other reviews: None yet
If you have reviewed this book and want your link here, please leave a comment with the link, and I will add it :)


  1. I absolutely loved this book -- it *almost* became my favourite read of 2009 but in the end The Grapes of Wrath 'won'.

    Aside from the things you've already mentioned I found particularly interesting to read about how the girl handles being positioned in between old and modern age.

  2. I reviewed this book too :)
    Maybe we read the same Bookcrossing edition!