65. 'Made in Japan' by S. J. Parks

Saturday 2 December 2017

A young girl traces her mother’s steps all the way from London to Japan to search for the father she never knew.

Hana arrives in Tokyo with only two words in her mind: The Teahouse. She’s a long way from home in East London and still fresh from the loss of her mother. But her grief has sent her across to the other side of the world to find out who she is, and for Hana that means finding the Japanese man she has never met, her father with only these two words as clues.

Made in Japan is a beautifully woven story of a mother and daughter who, decades apart, tread the same streets of glittering Tokyo looking for that something that might complete them.

I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, so when Bookollective contacted me and asked if I'd like to be involved with the blog tour for Made in Japan I jumped at the chance. 

Interweaving the story of mother and daughter - we first meet Hana. Hana has come to Japan to solve the mystery of her birth, and find out who her father is. Her mother has told her nothing, beyond the fact that he is long dead. Armed with threadbare information, Hana begins her journey retracing her Mother's footsteps. 

She meets a host of characters, some likable (Miho I especially liked), scatty American Jess (who I did not like) and a host of other background characters who vividly bring 2012 Japan to life. 

In contrast, when we meet Hana's mother Naomi she is bristling against the confines of having followed her boyfriend to Japan. Feeling stifled with little distraction, she acquires a position in an architects office through a friend. Little did she know how much that would change her life. She is captivated by the man, and the inevitable follows. Unseen hands have allowed the situation to develop until life throws in an unexpected element, leaving the main players reeling. 

Park's writing is captivating. I could not put the book down. I hungrily devoured the stories of mother and daughter. She easily portrays the enchanting romanticism that so often surrounds Japan, and that both Naomi and Hana expect. I enjoyed how the harsher realities that faced both of them individually were presented, especially in regard to the caste hierarchy facing Mockhizuki, and how it deeply complicated the choices facing him. 

Ed seemed like a filler character, fleshed out to be the modern day counterpart of Josh. I don't feel it was necessary for Hana to end up with Josh, although the ending is open and nothing seemed set in stone for their relationship. They seemed to have known each other too little, and have spent hardly any time together to feasibly shack up together - but then I suppose it adds another element of romance to the tale that does not end happily for most of the main characters. 

I would have like for more clarity on exactly who Miho was talking about when she said Naomi caused the death of a friend - as poetry is filtered throughout the story it could have been a poetic way of saying they died emotionally, but I am still very unclear on this element of the plot. 

That said, I really did enjoy this book, it was a captivating read. If you enjoy Japanese culture or have an interest this is definitely the book for you. Parks' writing is elegant and flowing, making it a joy to read. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of the tea house in winter, and the local customs and cultures littered throughout to flesh out the background story. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Thank you to Bookollective for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. 


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