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The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves (1954) by Yukio Mishima is a fairly slim novel that rather surprised me. After reading his Death in Midsummer and Other Stories (1953) and short story "Patriotism" (1960), both dark and philosophical, this one, by comparison, felt refreshingly light and optimistic. I didn't know he had it in him. And while the subject of suicide does come up, as an option in the mind of the young protagonist, [spoiler...] nobody offs themselves or dies in otherwise tragic circumstances, as tends to happen in his other works.

It's basically a boy-meets-girl story. Shinji is coming of age in a fishing village on Uta-jima, a small island in Ise Bay between Japan's prefectures of Mie and Aichi. He and Hatsue, a young woman who has returned to the island after training to be a pearl diver, fall in love but feel compelled to keep their relationship a secret so as not to set off the rumor mill. Alas, the mill eventually grinds into action, leaving the fate of the young lovers fraught with uncertainty.

The prose are quite beautiful and the narrative rolls in like mellow waves, creating a calming effect as you read. Mishima here also shows his talent for describing the sea and nature, and for capturing the essence of village life and young love.

Mishima won the Shincho Prize from Shinchosha Publishing for The Sound of Waves. It has been adapted for film five times (three of these are apparently very hard to track down) as well as a two-part animation.


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