#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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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 04 January, 2017

Hello to those of you who join me each Wednesday for this regular blog hop, and happy new year! I am wishing I was still on holidays, but at the same time, really glad to be finding my routines again. I had just under two weeks off work, but it’s amazing how even that short time can throw you off everything.

On that note, time for the blog hops! The first one is WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for today, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?

pyramidscoverI finished a few things over the holidays, though nowhere near as much as I would have liked. First, there was Pyramids by Terry Pratchett. I really enjoyed reading this; I hadn’t visited the Discworld in quite a while and this has made me think I should spend some more time there this year. I have a whole shelf of Pratchett books that I bought off a uni friend who was moving overseas, but I have only read a few of them.

starsabovecoverI spent my whole NYE reading Stars Above by Marissa Meyer, which is the short story collection set in the Lunar Chronicles universe. I have to be honest, I wasn’t actually that fussed. With a couple of exceptions, I didn’t really feel like they added anything to the overall narrative. But as usual with Meyer, it was really easy to read and I powered through it very quickly.

motherofdreamscoverAnd today, I finished Mother of Dreams;: Portrayals of Women in Modern Japanese Fiction, edited by Makoto Ueda. As with any short story anthology, I found some of the stories more meaningful than others.  I didn’t realise until I started reading it that it was published in the 1980s, and the stories featured were published over the previous 20-30 years, so some of it felt a bit dated.

Unfortunately, I DNFed Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker, which I had planned to make the final book of my 2016 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. It was just a bit too literary and character-driven for my tastes.

I posted a review of The Two by Will Carver just before Christmas, and my review of Pyramids went up on Monday

What are you currently reading?

naturalwayofthingscoverI should be reading The Diary of Anne Frank, which I’ve had from the library since before Christmas and which is due back next week. But I’m not, I’m about to start The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, which will be my first Australian Women Writers Challenge book of the year. A few people were discussing it on the AWW Facebook group and I felt I needed an un-put-downable book, so here it is.

What do you think you’ll read next?

annefrankcoverDefinitely need to read Anne Frank next. After that, I have a copy of The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias from  NetGalley (is it still an ARC if the book was released nearly a year ago?) and the few pages I skimmed on my phone the other day were appealing, so I’ll probably continue with that.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

wednesdaybannerThe other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I was having a bit of a freakout about Operation Sugarplum over the last couple of days, but I did some brainstorming and I know where I’m going now. I seem to have developed this method of outlining a bit, then writing that bit, then outlining some more. It works for me!

I wouldn’t usually share so much on a WIPpet post, but today you have 16 paragraphs (17 for the year minus 1 for the month – don’t worry, it’s mostly dialogue) of Clara dealing with a grumpy customer at the shop where she works. He’s trying to return some Christmas lights. Warning for some bad language.

Clara put on her best customer service smile. “What can I do for you?”

“These don’t work. I want a refund.”

“Okay. Do you have your receipt?”

“No. I lost it. But it’s your store brand, so obviously I got them from here.”

Clara grimaced inwardly. This was going to be fun.

“I’m afraid I can’t issue a refund without proof of purchase, sir.”

“It’s got your bloody brand on it. Where else would I have bought it?” He pointed to the store’s logo emblazoned on the box. Clara agreed with him, but there was still nothing she could do.

“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s the store policy. Would you like me to call my manager?” She reached for the phone, sensing that this was going to get beyond the level of customer service she was paid to deliver.

“I don’t want you to call your manager; I just want to get my money back for the shitty product that didn’t work!”

Clara took a step back as the man’s voice rose. He towered over her, his cheeks red, and Clara felt adrenaline spike through her body. She hated it when customers intimidated her. She lifted the phone to her ear to call her manager but saw the man throw up his hands.

“Bloody useless,” she heard him mutter.

She knew he was just venting, and that she shouldn’t take it personally, but she felt anger bubble up in her stomach regardless.

The next thing she knew, the box of Christmas lights was thudding to the floor and the man was swearing at her while rubbing a bruise that was quickly forming on his forehead.

“You little bitch!” he screamed. “Did you throw that at me?”

“No, I…”

Had she? She didn’t remember picking the box up at all. Was this another one of her unexplained abilities?

Oooh! 😉

I’m posting this a bit later than usual, so I shall head off and get my links done and hopefully get to some of your blogs as well. 🙂

~ Emily

December 2016 TBR

Who else can’t believe it’s already December? I certainly can’t! I’ve still got two reading challenges to finish, and while I have the various things I need to finish over this month recorded in various places, I thought it might be a good idea to list it all here. In any other month, I wouldn’t be too worried about trying to finish this number of books, but December is always so busy, and I barely have a free weekend between now and Christmas. We can only hope!

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

lettersendoflovecoverThe goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year was to read and review at least 12 books by Australian Women, including two by Indigenous authors and two by LGBTQI* authors. While I have reviewed 15, I still need to read one more by a lGBTQI* author. The book I have chosen is Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker. This book sounds really enjoyable from the blurb and the reviews, so I’m hoping I enjoy it. I have this one out from the library at the moment, so I can get to it asap.

The 2016 Choose Your Own Challenge Challenge

This challenge has been run out of a GoodReads group. At the beginning of the year, I chose 20 prompts, and I still have five to go, but I’ve worked out which books to read to fill them, and I have copies of all of them, so here’s hoping!

elenorecoverElenore by Faith Rivens = a book with a protagonist who has your occupation

Librarian, that is, not demon hunter. I’d be no good at that. Faith was good enough to provide me with an ARC of this book, and I’m really excited to read her debut.

motherofdreamscoverMother of Dreams edited by Makoto Ueda = a book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with

A colleague who recently passed away wanted her library to given away to family and friends. She was very interested in Japanese culture and had a lot of books pertaining to that among her shelves. This is one of the, uh, seventeen that I ended up with.

fairestcoverFairest by Marissa Meyer = an “in between the books” book (i.e. Book 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 of a series)

I recently replaced “the 16th book on your TBR” with this prompt, as for various reasons, that one wasn’t going to happen. But I’m gradually working my way through Marissa Meyer’s books that I am yet to read, and I’m excited to finally get to this one.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett = a book published on the year you were born pyramidscover

I already had this on my list and was planning to get it from the library when I picked up a copy from a local market stall. It’s been a while since I read any Terry Pratchett, and this one is quite short, so I think it will be a good one to get back into his books with.

annefrankcoverDiary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank = a book from the Rory Gilmore Challenge

I remember starting Anne Frank’s diary once before, but I never finished it. I understand a lot more about the Second World War now, though, and I have seen the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (I didn’t go in as the queue was around the block and I was quite sick; I ended up going back to the hotel and sleeping). I have a feeling this one is going to result in lots of tears.

So that’s it! I have 29 days and six books to get through (plus the one I’m reading at the moment)! Wish me luck!

~ Emily