Book Reviews

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Breasts and eggs- an exploration of a woman’s body asks a lot of questions, as it narrates the story of Natsuko-the main protagonist of Meiko Kawakami’s novel. The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 sees Makiko, Natsuko’s elder sister come to Tokyo and speak to her about getting a breast implant done. Part 2 sees Natsuko after 10 years, mull about her decision to have a child through a sperm donor. While the two parts look disengaged as I talk about it, in reality, they are conjoined by similar threads. Both emphasize motherhood, a woman’s body changing, and if bringing children into this world is a selfish act of desire or a hindrance in the way of success- a question that stunned me beyond my wits. Other than the main motif of talking about a woman’s body, linking it to her freedom, it targets poverty and the pressure it creates on women, the oppressive environment they are bound to survive in. The book is interestingly framed as it brings into limelight the stories of other female characters that run in parallel to Natsuko- equally immersive written with brutal uprightness.

The book goes through three stages of writing- at its start, it’s smooth, paving a way for the reader just like one would lay the ground rules of a game. With the end of part 1, the reader is convinced of Kawakami’s writing flair. Half-way down the writing gains momentum as we enter the protagonist’s deepest thoughts, her contemplations. Towards the end, the book feels like a cohesion of ideas shared in previous pages. What Kawakami does is rolls up the wool ball she had unwound at the start, making it compact once again-a winning trait. And this is where this Japanese lit fiction may be differentiated from others who mostly fall in the category of “Food for thought”, giving us an open ending so we can muse. Kawakami’s writing dwindles between elaborate and plaintive, just as the various moods it gets its reader into- sometimes somber but mostly inquisitive. She buoys us in her honest stances that are powerful words of gravity, unmasked but alluring. Kawakami’s writing flair exacerbates as much as it reasons the themes she tries to depict through her female characters.