Friday, April 15, 2011

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui

'Show, don't tell,' that's what they say about successful writing, but in his very short novella 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time', Tsutsui breaks this rule on his first page. One of Kazuko's friends, Goro, is short and stocky, works hard and 'could be very impulsive', while the other, Kazuo, is tall and lanky and 'a bit of a dreamer'. In a more literary novel, the reader would be shown this by how the characters behave, but Tsutsui doesn't have time for this. He has a story to tell, and it is this and the interesting ideas of what might be in store for mankind that make this book a success.

Kazuko and her friends are clearing up the science laboratory at school when she is temporarily left alone. An intruder enters and leaves some broken test tubes and a strange fragrance behind. Kazuko sniffs and swoons. The next day, after living through an earthquake and witnessing a fire in a nearby house, she and Goro encounter a runaway truck, but just before contact Kazuko finds herself drifting away to her bedroom the day before. From this one 'Groundhog Day' experience she and her friends surmise that she has special time-travel and teleporting powers.

This book has been a best-seller in Japan, and it is an entertaining and interesting tale told very simply and politely; these Japanese teenagers don't swear or like to rock the boat. They also chuckle (I have noticed that characters tend to chuckle a lot in many of the Japanese books I have read, and I keep wondering if this is cultural and something the Japanese tend to do, or that it is simply the best translation of a term that is used a lot in literature). It's a good, entertaining and diverting read which I can imagine would appeal in particular to older children or young teenagers of a similar age to Kazuko and her friends.

Another, shorter, story completes the book: 'The Stuff that Nightmares are Made of'. This was a charming exploration of phobias and what causes them. Masako, of a similar age to Kazuko, is scared of something in her friend's bedroom, and her brother is so afraid of visiting the bathroom in the night that he wets the bed. Masako turns mini-detective to find the causes and face the fears, and the results are coyly amusing.

Thank you to Alma Books for providing me with a copy.


Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I saw an animation based on this a while ago and I have to say I'd been keen to see the book. I think there's a live version due out soon too. And you're right about the chuckling - I don't think I've chuckled since the 1960s.

Sat Apr 16, 02:10:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, heh - very good, Jim (and I'm laughing, not chuckling).

Sat Apr 16, 02:18:00 pm  

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