For our book club meeting in September, we read Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami. A highly original book that resulted in a lively discussion about what it means to be a woman and Japanese culture. The book also highlighted the importance of translation and voice with some of the book club preferring one half of the book to the other. The two parts of the book were translated by two different translators, though the characters largely remain the same.
On a hot summer’s day in a poor suburb of Tokyo we meet three women: thirty-year-old Natsuko, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter Midoriko. Makiko, an ageing hostess despairing the loss of her looks, has travelled to Tokyo in search of breast enhancement surgery. She’s accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently stopped speaking, finding herself unable to deal with her own changing body and her mother’s self-obsession.
Her silence dominates Natsuko’s rundown apartment, providing a catalyst for each woman to grapple with their own anxieties and their relationships with one another. Eight years later, we meet Natsuko again. She is now a writer and find herself on a journey back to her native city, returning to memories of that summer and her family’s past as she faces her own uncertain future.