I had some grand plan of reading more than ten Japanese novels this year in order to improve my reading, vocabulary, and what have you. I have since reached a grand total of three. Which, hey, is a far better number than zero, but it’s not anywhere near where I wanted to be.
One of my favorite downtime pastimes is to walk into a bookstore and browse, no matter where I am. Depending on the size of the bookstore/my ability to read the language, I can be in the same shop for hours. And while many people spend those hours standing in place and reading through a book, I’ll be flitting back and forth between multiple sections, delighting in everything available I have yet to read.
On one such outing, I came across また、同じ夢を見ていた (I saw the same dream again) by 住野よる (Sumino Yoru). It looked cute, I could read the title and first page without help and, most importantly, the story looked interesting to me.
This is a story told from the viewpoint of a cheerful elementary school girl named Nanoka. She is given a strange assignment from her teacher, Hitomi-Sensei: to think about what true happiness means for her. Our main character starts off the tale with no apparent friends in her class, and no interest in making any friends there. After all, she has plenty of friends outside of school. Take, for instance, the little black cat who follows her (or leads her?) to all of her other buddies: the granny who always has juice and cake on hand, the woman with a foreign-sounding name, or the high school student writing a novel.
As Nanoka develops her relationships with each person, she explores the theme of her assignment, her ideas about herself (am I wise? Stupid?), and how others around her are affected by her actions.
I really enjoyed reading from Nanoka’s point of view; her logic made me laugh a few times. One such time was when she was feeling guilty about skipping class. She explains to us, the reader, that she hates telling lies and that normally, she tells her parents that she’s off to school. On the day she skips class, she merely says, “I’m off!” so in her mind, she didn’t tell any lies.
There were some touching moments, especially later on in the books as she starts to figure out her answer and her place in school. As the main character is an elementary school kid, the most difficult vocabulary I tended to run across were names without furigana attached to them. Also keep in mind this is written from a girls’ perspective, so the language she uses differs from what you’d have a young boy use (such as in the time travel book I read a while back).
Overall, I think if you’re at JLPT N3 or above, you should be able to tackle and even enjoy this story, so please do give it a look! If you think the novel version is a bit challenging, you might want to check out the manga instead.
What have you read lately? What books do you recommend?