this is a short story published separately on the back of success enjoyed by other two miller’s books – “the song of achilles” and “circe”.
madeline miller is a convincing story teller who uses ancient greek mythology as a template to draw a subtly different picture, different from conventional narrative. this time she takes the well-known story of pygmalion and tells it from galatea’s point of view. miller puts woman’s narrative in the centre – something that classic literature doesn’t do well, so modern writers are filling the gap.
it’s been a while since i read a book so slow-paced and yet this immersive. first half is almost exclusively exposition, done in a masterful way – reader is almost as uninformed as the narrator, who is a visiting human from our future earth to a new world. ambassador of space travel on a planet that doesn’t have flying transport.
i don’t think it will be a spoiler if i mention that the key difference between terran humans and gethenian ones is biological. ursula le guin thought out how a world would look like if humans were not split into duality of men and women. she paints a convincing picture that had me longing for gethen, despite its horrible climate.
my second book from this author, and definitely not the last. i want to read everything kawakami has written and would write. thankfully her books are proving to be popular and therefore more likely to be translated into english.
“heaven” describes the life of one middle-schooler who is cruelly bullied at school and his tentative friendship with another classmate who suffers from the same treatment. as you can imagine, it’s not a book you read as a pick-me-up. but don’t let that put you off. “heaven” puts into words both ugliness and beauty of human condition.
“nothing but my body” is a fictionalised memoir of a young sex worker in australia, recounting end of 2019 and 2020. so, very recent and very time-specific. though, i don’t think it will age badly, because the themes of the book are timeless and relatable. said themes include climate change catastrophe, inherent economic inequality of capitalistic society and power dynamic associated with it, discrimination of minority groups. and, of course, ins and outs of sex work.
such a good book, clicked with me just so. though i would imagine it’s not for everyone.
if you decide to read it, note that the novel includes descriptions of sex, casual drug use, problems with addiction, and acts of self-harm.