Territory of Light by Yūko Tsushima

Territory of Light is a sparsely written novel divided into twelve chapters, each one capturing a specific moment or period of its unnamed narrator’s life. Our narrator, the mother to a three-year-old, has recently moved into a new apartment as her husband, the father of her daughter, left her for another woman. Territory of Light details through a series of fragmented snapshots the way our narrator’s everyday life has been affected by her husband’s decision. Tsushima shows how a single-mother is viewed by Japanese society, and of the pressure, she feels to be a good and capable mother. Her three-year-old has temper tantrums, she acts out, she creates problems with their neighbors and at her preschool, in short, she does not make things easy for the narrator. At times her husband reappears to recriminate her, accusing her of being a bad mother, alcoholic and refuses to concede her a divorce. The narrator also receives unwelcome advice from her colleagues and other people around her, who often warn her that to divorce her husband would be a huge mistake.

While I cannot comment on the author’s prose as I read a translation of it, I can’t say that I was drawn in by either the characters or their stories. I found the narrator’s passivity frustrating and her flashes of temper to be a bit too melodramatic. Her daughter was annoying to the extreme. She was spoilt, rude, and so very annoying. Her presence in a given scene would be detrimental to my engagement in said scene. The husband was pathetic and one-dimensional while many of the dialogues seemed to exist only to emphasize how hard life as a single-mother is for the narrator.
While I did not necessarily dislike the novel, I did not particularly care for it either. This is the kind of novel that once ‘digested’ is soon to be forgotten.

my rating: ★★☆☆☆

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