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Lives of a set of characters connected to a Japanese bookshop is at the heart of this week's Star Read

By Margaret Chrystall

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The allure of a special second-hand bookshop has just earned Inverness’s own Leakey’s a top 10 place in the UK’s quirkiest in the run-up to National Book Lover’s Day.

Days At The Morisaki Bookshop.
Days At The Morisaki Bookshop.

And that kind of charm is at the heart of a newly-translated Japanese novel Days At The Morisaki Bookshop (Manilla Press, £10.99) by Satoshi Yagisawa, this week’s Star Read.

The translator Eric Ozawa in his note, refers to all the Japanese books mentioned, the writer: “... catalogues the many pleasures of reading: the joy of discovering a new author; the hedonism of staying up too late to finish a book; the surreptitious thrill of getting to know someone by reading their favourite novel ...”

The book won the Chiyoda Literature Prize in 2010. But the slightly retro-seeming world Yagisawa creates in his story of a broken heart, friendship, grief and holding on for love, has a timeless feel too.

A young woman Takako is floored when her love affair with a work colleague comes to an abrupt end and she finds herself invited to stay with a beloved uncle she hasn't seen in years at his bookshop in the Jimbocho district of Tokyo, a neighbourhood of bookshops.

Arriving, Takoko is taken by her uncle Satoru to the room he says he has got ready for her …

“When we peeked into the room on the second floor, I almost fainted on the spot. The ‘collection’ he had mentioned turned out to be towering stacks of books all over the room. There wasn’t anywhere to step inside … There wasn’t enough room for a mouse to stretch its legs in that room…”

Slowly the two share their pain – Satoru’s wife Momoko has left him. Change is coming, and the world of books supports the two, as the action moves from the shop and local café, to mountains and a temple, Yagisawa deftly describing the inner and outer landscape of his vulnerable, very real characters.

Days At The Morisaki Bookshop (Manilla Press, £10.99) is out now.

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