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.

Tokyo Fiancee
by Amelie Nothomb
I'm a Powell's partner and receive a small commission on sales.

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


Anonymous said...

I am usually all about Europas but this one doesn't really interest me. Maybe I'll change my mind at some point, but I think for now I'll pass it up.

Audra said...

Hrm -- yeah, I'm not sure I'm all that interested in reading it. Maybe -- I've had a number of friends go to Japan for work and have mixed experiences (some love, some hate) -- but unlikable characters are tough for me to get in to if there's not a strong hook.

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy the dry narrative.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued, since I have this one checked out of the library right now.

JoAnn said...

I read Northomb's Fear and Trembling just before I started blogging. It didn't do much for me, so I'm not inclined to pick this up.... no matter how much Europa editions appeal to me.

Zibilee said...

I am not sure that I would like this one. I am not much for narcissism in the books that I read, and have a feeling I would be annoyed by that. I did like reading your thoughts on it though!

Kathleen said...

I am putting this one down as a maybe.

Harvee said...

I read this book some time and agree with you about Aimee's narcissism and felt sorry for her ex-fiancee. I enjoyed the book though.

Anonymous said...

I think this is my least favorite Europa to date. And generally I adore Europas! I found it a bit cold.