Tag Archives: Book Review

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 70: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Sometimes in reading a novel for the second time, you will not get the same feeling when you read it previously. This is the case for Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Snow Country is considered to being Kawabata’s masterpiece.  And for many reasons, I agree with that assessment. However, as I’m getting older, I realize that doomed love affair stories don’t have the same appeal they once did for me as a reader.  Love has its own challenges when you make that kind of connection with another human being, and I don’t have the patience to figure out if someone feels a certain way or not. I understand the dance that can happen with love, but it can be exhausting on the page as it is in actual life.

Snow Country falls into that understated, everything is between-the lines type of love. I will write it’s beautifully written and descriptions of Western Japan’s snowiest region are stunning. I love a setting in fiction, especially when it becomes a character in the story as well. However, I need to find something interesting about the characters in the story alongside the setting.  As a reader, I don’t need to relate to the characters. (Actually, I think the character relatability in fiction is oversold and can shortcut the enjoyment of reading.)  But I need some kind of connection point on a basic human level.   And I did not quite get that upon this second reading of Kawabata’s masterpiece.

Shimamura is a married, wealthy Tokyo businessman that travels every so often to Western Japan because of his dalliance to a geisha named Komako. It troubles Komako about the relationship with Shimamura.  Kawabata reveals the vicissitude of their relationship throughout the novel. I could see current readers having a problem with Komako’s characterization as an emotionally unstable woman. That would be a fair assumption on the surface level of the story.  However, I must admit that I found her character as the most dynamic in Snow Country.  She carries the novel more than Shimamura.

Even though I knew this love affair had only one outcome. Kawabata provides a subtle and surprising love triangle with another geisha named Yoko that gives the novel a lot more depth. It is not a classic Western-style love triangle by any means, and the ending bares it out.

Snow Country is the third Kawabata novel I have read (Beauty & Sadness and Thousand Cranes are the others) and is still my favorite book of his work.  I’m a patient reader and like an interesting love story, when it’s well done. But I have to admit that wanted a little more straight-forwardness between Shimamura and Komako. Yasunari Kawabata is one of Japan’s greatest writers and a must for readers. Also, the translation by Edward G. Seidensticker is sublime. I just learned a valuable reading lesson that some books are never as good as the first time.


Wisdom From Kammbia Review 51: Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the science fiction writers I have read throughout my reading life.  He joins Octavia Butler, Greg Bear, and Robert Silverberg as the science fiction writers I have found interesting and thought provoking to read. Pacific Edge is the third book of The Three Californias Trilogy and a book that… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 49: Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

There are books that make you want to turn the page to find out what happens next.  However, there are a few books that turns the page for you and invites the reader into the story.  Very few novels make you feel the latter.  Little Country by Charles de Lint is one of those novels. … Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 28: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

King writes an interesting, psychological story about a nine year old girl that gets separated from her family and lost in the woods. King probes the internal psyche of a young girl in such a situation and uses the power of imagination in the form of her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon of the Boston… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 27: Map of Shadows by J.F. Penn

J.F. Penn wrote a fast-paced, dark fantasy thriller about a young woman named Sienna that belongs to a family of mapmakers and their connection to another world called the Borderlands. Map of Shadows is the first book of the trilogy and does a solid job of setting up the conflict between the people of this… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 25: Chronicle Of A Death Foretold

For the world-renowned novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, most readers have read or attempted to read One Hundred Years of Solitude or the more accessible Love In The Time of Cholera. Some (like me) have read both novels. However, Garcia Marquez has a body of work that gets overlooked by those aforementioned books. I was in… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 10: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

                Cal Newport has written another excellent book about how technology (mostly social media) has affected modern life. Digital Minimalism is the follow-up the ground-breaking book, Deep Work and Newport expands on his ideals from that previous work to propose a new philosophy for the social media age.… Continue Reading