Thursday, November 17, 2011

REVIEW: Tokyo Fiancée, by Amélie Nothomb

Tokyo Fiancée, by Amélie Nothomb. Published 2009 by Europa Editions. Translated from the French by Alison Anderson.

Amélie Nothomb's autobiographical novel Tokyo Fiancée tells the story of a young Belgian woman named Amélie who travels to Japan to work as a language teacher. She meets a young man named Rinri and the two embark on a sweet cross-cultural romance. Told from her point of view, Amélie learns about Japanese culture through the eyes of her admirer, and about herself as well.

The narrative style Nothomb employs is somewhat dry and matter-of-fact; young Amélie is a little self-centered but likable enough. She struggles with low-status work and tries to save money, and in her spare time she enjoys the attentions of her wealthy lover. When the romance ends, she soothes herself with some platitudes but gives nary a thought to the broken heart of the man she leaves behind. And he makes it easy on her.

I have to admit this was not my favorite novel because I do like to like the person I'm reading about but Tokyo Fiancée is still a worthwhile read, especially for those interested in learning about Japanese culture. It's the kind of book that puts forward its point of view without trying to seduce the reader; Amélie doesn't seem to care if you like her and she doesn't see anything wrong or questionable about her narcissism. It simply never seems to occur to her that there is any other way to look at her story, which makes her an unusual and memorable character. I'd recommend Tokyo Fiancée to readers looking for something different, for a book you haven't read before. Nothomb is a challenging and unusual writer, and readers looking for an in-your-face experience would do well to check her out.

Rating: BACKLIST
Tokyo Fiancee
by Amelie Nothomb
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FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.