Having recently visited Japan I was delighted to be invited by the Bookollective team to be part of the celebrations for Made in Japan by S. J. Parks and I am extremely grateful to them for providing a copy in return for an honest review.
Made in Japan was published by Harper Collins earlier this year and is available for purchase through the links here.
Made in Japan
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.
My Review of Made in Japan
Naive and emotionally incomplete following her mother’s death, grieving Hana travels to Japan to find the tea house of her mother’s memories and her real identity.
Made in Japan is a gorgeously written book. It may sound negative, and it is certainly not intended to be so, but reading Made in Japan was almost painful at times. There’s such a strong sense of oppression for Naomi and Hana with a desperate longing to be loved and to belong that I could feel their needs physically. I found the style quite complex and I needed to concentrate as the syntax was sometimes alien to me. I thought this fitted Hana’s sense of displacement especially well. The text is intense, poetic and so potent that I was glad many of the chapters were short as I needed to come up for air. This is powerful writing.
Essentially, the plot is quite simple. Two women, Hana and her mother Naomi before her, search for their place in life in Tokyo. However, there are twists and turns to their stories that reveal a disturbing world of class, business, forced hedonism and greed that made me feel quite uncomfortable at times as I witnessed Josh’s behaviour in particular. I thought S. J. Parks showed the dichotomies of the country so effectively in Made in Japan and I loved the sense of place. The reader is treated to the customs and places as well as some of the history of Japan with vivid texture through the writing. I felt transported back to some of the places I have visited.
However, it was the themes of Made in Japan that held me captivated the most. There are betrayals on many levels and so many of the characters felt so desperately sad or damaged that I was willing them to find their truths. Friendship, honour, love and passion all underpin the narrative alongside a surprisingly pragmatic approach to life in many ways that I felt this book would reward many re-readings in order to appreciate the subtleties and layers.
I honestly don’t know if I enjoyed Made in Japan. It felt uncomfortable and almost suffocating to read at times because of the depth of feeling conveyed and yet I’m glad I have read it. It deserves to become a modern classic.
About S. J. Parks
S. J. Parks is a literature graduate with a writing MA from the University of London, Two weeks after she got married S.J Parks went to live in Tokyo and ended up staying for 5 good years. She found the Japanese are an amazing people, living on a cultural and tectonic fault line where East meets West and where once every other month or so an earthquake hits and as in 2011 a huge tidal wave struck the coast. From her time in Japan she knows what it is like to live among strangers and wanted to begin her writing with a love story like Madam Butterfly. So Made in Japan was born.
S. J. Parks now lives in England with her family.
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