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Review: Thirst For Love by Yukio Mishima

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Despite having read this small Japanese classic in 2 days, it’s one of the rare books I couldn’t recommend because I can’t imagine an ‘ideal audience’ for it. Initially, the back blurb drew me in: Etsuko is a widowed young ‘mistress’ to her deceased husband’s father, and, after experiencing unrequited love with the younger male servant, Saburo, makes a move that leads to ‘catastrophic consequences.’ Hoping to bond with Etsuko through the pain of unrequited love, I read devotedly. However, the book was a strange disappointment because:

-Character actions didn’t fit their emotional context. It was as if Mishima planned outcomes before the causes.

-Etsuko’s ‘love’ for Saburo doesn’t add up; they have no chemistry, they rarely interact, Saburo doesn’t ‘see’ anything in her, and he’s never described as being particularly intriguing.

Apparently, Etsuko loved his poverty…”His lovely poverty! That above all drew her in. In Etsuko’s eyes, his poverty played the fetching role usually portrayed by shyness in a girl.” -Pg 91. Is ‘poverty’ enough to truly love someone?

-Ending felt rushed and illogical

-Book was slow and her moments with Saburo were sparse & mild (until their last interaction beginning on pg 180)

+ The only true thrill this book gave me was when (*SPOILER*) Etsuko finally confesses her feelings to Saburo and, despite him not having any feelings for her at all, he lies and tells her she’s the one he loves. He then attempts to initiate a physical liaison with her, but she screams and runs away (???). The ending then descends into poorly done chaos when he chases her, tries to ravage her again, she screams and runs, and then, after Yakichi (man she’s mistress to) emerges startled from the house with an axe, she takes it and murders Saburo with it.

I wish I could have loved this, but I feel there’s a reason it’s a ‘forgotten classic.’


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