TOKYO UENO STATION by Miri Yū
Tokyo Ueno Station is a short, sparse book which follows the life of Kazu, born in 1933, the same year as the Emperor. Kazu’s life (mostly characterized by tragedy and poverty) is thematically entwined with the Emperor’s through a series of coincidences that tie their families together – and it’s also closely connected to Ueno Park, a historically significant site in Tokyo that Kazu’s spirit now haunts after his death.
This is a mournful, elegant book that ultimately didn’t leave much of an impression on me. In fact, I’m struggling to write this review because I finished this a few days ago and it’s already slipped from my mind almost entirely. I don’t know what it was, because I didn’t find a single thing about this book to be overtly objectionable; it just didn’t fully come together for me. I think the fragmented, vignette-style structure paired with its incredibly short length left me wanting more.
Also – in some ways this comparison seems absurd but I also can’t get it out of my head – this reminded me so much of When All Is Said by Anne Griffin (a book I really didn’t care for), which follows an elderly Irish man looking back on his life and the people who shaped him the most. In both cases I felt like I was being spoon-fed these tragic stories on a very surface level without organically feeling any of it. I do think Tokyo Ueno Station is the more accomplished book, but I guess ‘old men mournfully looking back on their sad lives-lit’ is not for me?
Thank you to Netgalley and Riverhead for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.