by Fumiko Enchi

Other authorsJuliet Winters Carpenter (Translator)
Paperback, 1983




Vintage (1983), Edition: 1st Aventura ed, 160 pages


Published for the first time in the UK, one of Japan's greatest modern female writers Ibuki loves widow Yasuko who is young, charming and sparkling with intelligence as well as beauty. His friend, Mikame, desires her too but that is not the difficulty. What troubles Ibuki is the curious bond that has grown between Yasuko and her mother-in-law, Mieko, a handsome, cultivated yet jealous woman in her fifties, who is manipulating the relationship between Yasuko and the two men who love her.

User reviews

LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
Masks is a fitting name for this intriguing novel. Not only are they part of the story, but they are also a metaphor for the idea that one might not know people as well as one thinks.

In this story, there is a puzzling relationship between Yasuko Tokano and her mother-in-law, Mieko Tokano. After Akio, Yasuko's husband and Mieko's son, dies in an avalance, two men try to win the affection of the beautiful Yasuko. One of the men is a Tsuneo Ibuki, a married man with a three-year-old child, and the other is Toyoki Mikame, a single man who also happens to be Ibuki's very good friend.

This was a beautiful story. I love the way it flowed. It had a final twist, though, that I should have seen coming. I guess I was too caught up with the characters as they were interacting with one another to think that far ahead. Some stories do that to me.

This story had footnotes to explain some lesser known facts about Japanese historical figures mentioned in the narrative. It also described some Japanese customs with which I was not familiar. An example of this would be the description of some of the the masks as they related to Japanese No drama. Stunning imagery was provided by descriptions of women's clothing, the weather, and the scenery.

I'd never before read any books by this author, but I will glady look for more now as I found her style of writing quite enchanting.
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LibraryThing member jeterat
I was surprised by the pace of this novel and the symbolic nature of the characters. Although I did not fully understand the allusions to the Tale of Genji and Noh masks, the story was excellent and compelling. It fit nicely with other reads I've completed recently that deal with women and the nature of childbearing. I think that to fully understand it, I'll need to reread it, but I look forward to it. Finished this short read in just a day. Mieko was somewhat mystifying, and by the end, I wasn't quite sure what had truly happened to her during her marriage to make her into the woman that she was.… (more)
LibraryThing member thorold
Masks is a tricky book to get to grips with, and I'm not sure that I really did it justice reading it during a long train journey. The present-day (i.e. 1950s) foreground middle-class adultery plot seems to be a reworking of an episode from The tale of Genji (the story of the Rokujō lady), as carefully explained in a scholarly essay by one of the characters, and there are all kinds of undercurrents of spiritualism and of shamanism-as-matriarchal-power going on.

I found the language of the book, as translated by Carpenter, flat and unappealing (tone-deaf, even), rather in the idiom of a very forgettable modern American novel, without much sense that this was Japan in the 1950s, and this made it harder to take the leap into engaging with the supernatural side of the story, which takes away a lot of the point of the book. But there obviously is a lot of interesting stuff to dig out if you can get past the dull language, in particular the complex characters of the two women at the centre of the story.
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