BG1 - August 2021 - start of new season
The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi
A short read with beautifully developed characters and evocative scenes, first published in 1957, (John Bester translated into English in 1971) took the author seven years to write. The novel won the prestigious Noma prize. Set in the Meiji period in last years of the nineteenth century just prior to Japan’s rapid industrialisation, the novel centres around the Shirikawa family-Tomo the wife, the woman behind the successful husband, Yukitomo, focusing on relationships between man and women and other familial ties.
The novel opens with Tomo, raised in the conservative dutiful wife tradition in a time when supporting a husband’s desires is primary, was tasked with finding him a suitable concubine. Other characters are introduced along the way - the children, another concubine, in-laws, family members, secretaries/assistants, all woven tightly into a story that explores the subservient role of women in that period.
We enjoyed the read and our discussion on issues centred on the characters in the novels, male chauvinism, women’s rights, maternal sacrifices, the role of women in that period and the impact of culture, upbringing, status, education etc. Whilst the position of women have come a long way, at the same time, we still seem to be stuck in some key areas - trophy wives, unequal pay, ‘Me too’.
Ket Ti Loong