After a thoroughly enjoyable buddy read of Different Class by Joanne Harris, which you can read all about here, the blog has returned to Vienna, Austria – this time myself and Caecilia paired up to read Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino. We read this book as part of #diverseATHON, a week long readathon/celebration of diversity in literature (12-19 Sept), created by 4 booktubers. More information about #diverseATHON and its creators can be found over at Book Riot.
I hope you enjoy our spoiler-free review of this book by one of Japan’s best-selling crime fiction authors – Keigo Higashino and please join our discussion in the comments regarding diversity in reading.
From the back cover:
A twenty-year-old murder
A chain of unsolvable mysteries
Can one detective solve this epic riddle?
When a man is found murdered in an abandoned building in Osaka in 1973, unflappable detective Sasagaki is assigned to the case. He begins to piece together the connection of two young people who are inextricably linked to the crime; the dark, taciturn son of the victim and the unexpectedly captivating daughter of the main suspect. Over the next twenty years we follow their lives as Sasagaki pursues the case – which remains unsolved – to the point of obsession.
*Ryo is the son mentioned in the synposis, and Yukiho is the daughter*
After reading the first few chapters, what were your initial/opening thoughts?
Caecilia: This was my second book by Keigo Higashino. After the first part I felt like I was back in his world. His way of introducing a story to the reader.
Janel: This was the first book I’ve read by this author, and only my second book by a Japanese author. After reading so many books told in first person perspective, this was a welcome change. This story spans over 20 years, there was a time-hop within the first chapter, but it was done in a way (as the rest of them are), that doesn’t disrupt the flow of the book. I always read with a notebook by my side and once the “riddle” was set, alongside Sasagaki, Janel was on the case… I was hooked from the very first chapter!
Were there any themes/elements you really enjoyed?
Caecilia: Higashino is one of the most authentic Japanese crime writers – the Japan he describes in his books, the way how the protagonists interact, all the food and holiday customs mentioned … show Japan, as it is. And the way, how society works. I hope that he reaches to share the true Japan with many further readers.
Janel: I loved everything about this book! It was a fantastic mystery book, I enjoyed trying to solve the case. I was a little worried at first that I would get confused with all the character’s names, especially as I’m not familiar with Japanese names, at the beginning of the book I noted them down, but a testament to Higashino, I was so invested in the story, I no longer needed to refer to it throughout the book.
What did you think of the characters, did you have a favourite?
Caecilia: Oh my – a favourite. I liked Sasagaki, the investigating inspector. His instinct had told him right from the start that something was not that simple, here. He kept on searching for an answer and did so, dedicating 19 years of his life to Yukiho and Ryo. – I also liked Imaeda, the private detective.
Janel: Awh, how could you not like Imaeda!? – My favourite character was Yukiho, she was such an interesting character. There were times when I liked her, disliked her, felt sorry for her, was angry at her…you get the gist of it – I just couldn’t figure her out.
What did you think of the ending?
Caecilia: The main questions were all answered. What I particularly loved about the ending was – how the answers were not provided in Poirot’s “Let’s gather together, I will now explain” style – but over the last couple of chapters, step by step.
Janel: I agree with Caecilia, the way the answers were provided was very enjoyable, and I think this is the reason the book had such an impact on me. Over the course of the book, you really got to know the characters and by the time the revelations started coming, they were no longer fictional characters but real people that created conflicting emotions within me…
Caecilia: “You know”, Yukiho continued, “I’ve never lived in the sunlight.”
Janel: “Some people walk forever in the sunlight, and some people have to walk through the darkest night their whole lives.”
Would you recommend this book?
Caecilia: From all the books I have read this year, this is one of the novels which has left the deepest emotional stain on me. It’s a story that moved me a lot and yes, I do hope that many more readers around the globe will be able to enjoy this mystery novel.
Janel: If you’re looking for a book with a real mystery to solve, I highly recommend this one.
Caecilia: For Japanese people – as is also shown in Higashino’s novels – respect is a very important part of society. The bowing, the many polite phrases in their language, the being careful… is something, Japanese people could not do without. They learn to accept each others territories, from an early age.
In my private life, I have experienced something sad recently.
A friend of mine – whom, I admit, used to be close – wanted me to come to her party. It was not just “any” party to her – she was close to giving birth and it was the last party she and her boyfriend could have, before the baby’s arrival. On the same day, though, I was asked by my sister to support her – to babysit my niece (my sister’s 3 months old baby) & therefore, I told my friend that unfortunately, I cannot come to her party in the evening, as I will be worn out from my niece.
My friend kept on and on and on… how important the party was to her. And even when on the actual day I went to this friend’s house briefly – after babysitting – just to bring her her b-day gift, hoping that she would see the good intention behind my short visit – she started to blame me again, for not being there, at the party, in the evening. This, led to me – exploding. I felt so much pushed into a corner that I did not know how to defend myself anymore.
The reason why I am sharing this, on here – and, right now. For me, being raised by a Japanese mother, my friend’s behaviour – the constant nagging of why I would not come to her party was absolutely, not-understandable. How can someone be so “pushy”? In Japanese culture, this is considered an absolute “no go”. No matter how important something is for you, there is always a tactful way of trying – force, is totally unacceptable.
For my friend, her behaviour was simply, her way to be: honest.
Reading Higashino books brings me close again, to my Japanese side. And it’s a way of being reminded how important it is to respect each others territory.
I wonder how reading about Japanese culture, felt for Janel and would love to get her insight on the tiny details that were well-entangled into Higashino’s crime plot.
Janel: Thank you for sharing that with us Caecilia, I am so interested in other cultures and find I ask a lot of questions. I admit, I don’t know very much about Japanese culture/traditions and I was so glad nothing appeared to be lost when this book was translated from Japanese to English; when reading this book, you can definitely visualise the scenes Higashino describes such as the neighbourhood, the street food, you get a real feel for what Japan was like during that time period, especially the difference between the richer and poorer neighbourhoods. I enjoyed this book so much, I have purchased ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’, also by Higashino, and I am looking forward to returning to Japan – it’s true, you really can travel the world through books!
I think the incident with your friend highlights perfectly why diversity, in life, not just books, is so important. Not everybody has the same traditions/beliefs and it is so important to be respectful of others people’s cultures. And if you do not understand something…ask, don’t attack.
I would like to thank Caecilia, for joining me on another buddy read, and introducing me, not only to a new author, but to the Japanese culture. You can keep up with all Caecilia’s bookish activity by following her on Instagram and Twitter. I would also like to thank the creators of #diverseATHON as it’s a great way to bring readers together and generate discussion.
Are you diverse with your reading, is diversity in reading something you consider important? Let us know in the comments…