The acclaimed and bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs and Heaven returns with a blistering, shocking and poetic story set in contemporary Tokyo.
Fuyuko Irie is a freelance proofreader in her thirties. Living alone, and unable to form meaningful relationships, she has little contact with anyone other than Hijiri, someone she works with. When she sees her reflection, she’s confronted with a tired and spiritless woman who has failed to take control of her own life. Her one source of solace: light. Every Christmas Eve, Fuyuko heads out to catch a glimpse of the lights that fill the Tokyo night. But it is a chance encounter with a man named Mitsutsuka that awakens something new in her. And so her life begins to change.
As Fuyuko starts to see the world in a different light, painful memories from her past begin to resurface. Fuyuko needs to be loved, to be heard, and to be seen. But living in a small world of her own making, will she find the strength to bring down the walls that surround her? ALL THE LOVERS IN THE NIGHT is acute and insightful, entertaining and captivating, pulsing and poetic, modern and shocking. It’s another unforgettable novel from Japan’s most exciting writer.
Translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd, Mieko Kawakami’s All the Lovers in the Night is a literary novella exploring loneliness, depression, anxiety and the strength of friendship — in this instance, between two unlikely characters.
At just over 200 pages, Mieko Kawakami’s All the Lovers in the Night tackles societal expectations and interpersonal relationships between friends and lovers. The writing is insightful and the translation is expertly accomplished.
“Hijiri puckered her lips and looked at me like she was sorry. Even though it was dark, the ambient lighting defined the contours of her plump, shapely lips, which looked so full of life that they could have hopped off her face and walked around at any moment.”
All the Lovers in the Night examines the role of women in contemporary society, and how they choose to live their lives.
Fuyuko is an isolated recluse, working from home as a freelance proofreader — there are moments in the book where she feels at odds with others around her, particularly women, and how they choose to fill their spare time. We come to realise, over the course of the novel, how lonely Fuyuko really is and how much richer her life becomes once she starts to form stable friendships.
“A few minutes later, the man was still looking at me, which made it hard for me to stay calm. I had no idea where I should look and I was beginning to feel helpless when it hit me…”
One of the strongest messages in the book is that of beauty standards, and the impossibility of meeting society’s expectations of women and how they’re presented. Furthermore, the novel explores the relationship between women, and how women can both build each other up and tear each other down — sometimes in the same sentence.
After spiralling into a period of depression and increased solitude, Fuyuko’s chance meeting with Mitsutsuka allows Fuyuko to examine her relationship with self and her relationship with those around her. Intermittent insights into Fuyuko’s past provide clarity around her anxieties and her inclination towards isolation. Surprisingly, a conversation towards the end of the book brings past trauma into the forefront again, reminding Fuyuko of people’s true intentions.
“I thought about the walk I took that winter on my birthday. I remembered that night, how I counted the lights, walking through coldness so profound that I could almost hear it, through that dry air slickened with so many special things. Before long, the hottest part of summer would be here, which would then give way to fall, followed by winter.”
Observational,tender and poignant, All the Lovers in the Night is recommended for readers of literary fiction, novellas and short stories. Readership skews 30+
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
All the Lovers in the Night
Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia