#BeatTheBacklist Book Review: “the Mother of Dreams: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction” ed. Makoto Ueda

Title: The Mother of Dreams: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction
Author: Makoto Ueda (editor), various authors and translators
Short stories
Date Read:
22/12/2016 – 04/01/2017
Rating: ★★★


This anthology is divided into five sections: the Maiden, the Mistress, the Wife, the Mother and the Working Woman. As with all short story anthologies, some of the stories in this volume impressed me more than others.

To be honest, I found that many of the stories featured displayed a rather grim outlook on womanhood, regardless of the archetype being explored. This book was originally published in 1986, so the “modern” of the title is actually the post-war period. Of course, there was a lot of tension regarding the roles of women the world over at the time, and I wonder if that had something to do with the overall tone that I was experiencing.

The language used in these English translations also felt very formal, so while some of the stories did capture my interest, they still came across as somewhat dull. I don’t speak Japanese, so I don’t know if this was to capture the tone of the originals, or again perhaps a product of the time.

I feel like I’m doing a lot of moaning about this book, so I should also mention the things I did like. I enjoyed getting a peek into Japanese culture, and witnessing how everyday routines differ between Japanese people and Westerners. There were also some stories where I thought the premise was quite good, and if the above complaints hadn’t been quite so obvious, I could have found them really engaging. Overall, though, this was not a terribly exciting read.

This review is part of my 2017 Beat the Backlist Challenge. For more information, click here.

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