In the High Peaks

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

First of 20: All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

This is my first book I've read for The Twenty Books of Summer.

I’m really glad that I happened upon a positive, very brief review of Japanese author Mieko Kawakami’s recently translated novel, All the Lovers in the Night, which was published in a Europa edition in 2022. I knew nothing about Kawakami prior to discovering this book, but after reading it, I’ve searched for more information about her and her work. Kawakami’s most well-known novel is Breast and Eggs.

     Before I describe my wonderful experience with this book, I want to say that the title utterly baffles me, based on my reading of the book and what it is about. So I wonder: Is this a translation of the original Japanese title of the novel? Really? Or, is it, as happens all too frequently, a title slapped on by the publisher, all because a strict Japanese translation of the title would mean nothing to English language readers?

     So, no, I feel I can say with purpose, that this is most assuredly not a book about lovers in the night.

     It is, however, a book about a single woman in her mid-thirties, who lives an incredibly solitary life in the midst of a large city. She works as a copy-editor/proofreader. Her work hours are long and are spent scrutinizing manuscripts for errors, a job that occupies her for 10-14 hours a day, depending. She has no true friends, no family or social life, nor does she have any leisure time activities. She has a television, but never watches because she hates the noise. She appears to be an empty shell. Actually, I was spellbound that this was the sum total of her existence. How can a person live like this and survive?

     What’s fascinating is to observe her slow, plodding, and messy efforts to break out, which creates all the dramatic tension. I was wholly absorbed by everything she tried and her flawed attempts. Brilliantly portrayed by Kawakami.

     She does meet a nice man, in his late fifties, who becomes a catalyst. I loved how this entire relationship was handled.

     I highly recommend this novel.


  1. Hey Judith, This definitely sounds like a "me" book and, I do have a copy! Glad you enjoyed it. I read another book by this author called: Heaven. It was quite dark but I liked it a lot. Link to my review:

    Have you read anything by Sayaka Murata? She is another Japanese author who writes a darker story but, I love her writing: Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings. She has a short story collection coming out this summer called: Life Ceremony.

    Hope the rest of your summer reads are just as good.

    1. Hi Diane,
      I am adding Heaven to my list of books to read this fall and later, after the "20 Books of Summer."
      I'd also like to try Murata. Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Great review, Judith. The book sounds very good. My husband was looking at this in the bookstore recently but neither of us knew much about the book. I will pass your thoughts along to him.

    1. It's a short novel, and in some ways very different from most of what I usually read. I think it's about 212 pages, that's all.

    2. You make me want to read this one! It's weird about the title, though. :)