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Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima. Book Review

April 10, 2018

Book cover Territory of Light

Set in Tokyo, Territory of Light chronicles the life of a young woman who is left by her husband to bring up her two-year-old daughter on her own. The story is told in a no-nonsense style like a journal, reporting the facts of her days fraught with the stress of keeping her child well cared for and socially on track, while trying to earn a living to keep them both.

What emerges from the terse narrative is a real immersion into this unnamed woman’s world and a very accurate portray of what it is like for a single mother with an errant father to meet the expectations of society in bringing up a child. This seems to be the same the world over.

There is little direct description of the woman’s emotional inner landscape and yet the choice of words in the narrative really makes you, the reader, feel you are the woman in experiencing everything she does.

Her life is full of frustration and minor injustices, as well as the constant pressure exerted on her by a child who is not particularly naughty, but trying to make sense of their fractured family life in her own way. The actions and dialogue between mother and child, are particularly poignant and really demonstrate how well clean prose can be put to use to involve a reader emotionally in a scene.

This is the story of someone who has little time to snatch moments for herself to contemplate and appreciate the finer details of the world around her. Yet when she does it is with great concentration, capturing the minutiae of everything that might enrich her life.

Geraldine Harcourt has done a great job translating Yuko Tsushima’s terse prose, making the book is a very useful resource for a writer wanting to understand how to convey a character’s inner, emotional landscape, as well as developing a highly effective writing style through the careful choice of words and direct prose.

Territory of Light was courtesy of Penguin Classics via NetGalley.

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From → Book Review, Literary

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