Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. A young fisherman is entranced at the sight of the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. They fall in love, but must then endure the calumny and gossip of the villagers.
©1956 Copyright 1956 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright renewed 1984 by Meredith Weatherby. Originally published in Japan as Shiosai. (P)2010 Audible, Inc
"A story that is both happy and a work of art...Altogether a joyous and lovely thing. (The New York Times)
"Of such classic design its action might take place at any point across a thousand years." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Mishima is like Stendhal in his precise psychological analyses, like Dostoevsky in his explorations of darkly destructive personalities." (Christian Science Monitor)
Central Japan's tiny little island is where this story takes place. This is a classical love story in Japanese sense - with characters bound by constraints of a traditional society. A shy boy and a shy guy who both have hard times expressing their feelings toward each other. Some readers might be put off by the underlying male dominant premise of the island community where women have to unite to influence the decision of a powerful male elder of the island, the decision that has a vital bearing on the destiny of the love between two protagonists Shinji and Hatsue.
I actually visited the island which Mishima used as the model for Utajima island in the novel. Mishima stayed on this island called Kamishima while he was writing this novel. Listening to this story, I can picture the island's lay of the land. I'm fully aware that nostalgia and familiarity skew my evaluation of this work. I'm not surprised if others give lower ratings to this as The Sound of Waves doesn't have usual mystical and somewhat eerie air more typical of Mishima's other works. Simple, straightforward love story with not so many twists and turns along the way where (spoiler alert) Shinji and Hatsue in the end see their happy ending. For me, the beauty of the depiction of the place is more than enough to draw me deeply into this story every time I re-listen. I'm also quite fond of it's sunny, optimistic undertone.
Listened to Temple of the Golden Pavillion (also Mishima) right before. He's a bit stiff, but I love that he actually pronounces the Japanese names correctly. There are several other books I have refrained from downloading because of the awful americanized pronounciations.
That said, I guess I could see how some people not familiar with Japanese would find this annoying because it does stick out a bit in the text and feels as there's a slight emphasis everytime someone's name is read. Luckily, Japanese has really simple phonetic structure so I think anyone (regardless of linguistic background) will get used to it very quickly.
The lighthouse scene was very vividly described, so I enjoyed that part quite a bit. Part with the storm too.
If you're new to Mishima, grab Temple of the Golden Pavillion first (out of the two I've read, maybe The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea is even better - I refrain from Spring Snow since the sequels aren't available).
Not to be all macho or anything but.. it's a romance novel (youth romance, even) and while I'd never call this book itself bland or boring, the theme really is.
"Through That Perilous Night"
I'm more and more impressed with Mishima. The two works I've now had the pleasure to acquaint with, "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with" and now this, are singular achievements, Mishima's prose full of power, beauty and life. I'm going to visit the golden pavilion first before embarking on a journey to the sea of fertility. I can't wait.
"The Sound of Waves" is a coming-of-age story, a "Romeo and Juliet" of forbidden love, a social study of a closed island community like Imamura's brilliant epic "Profound Desires of the Gods," a predestined Greek tragedy with the interference of the deus ex machina, and ultimately a very strong statement of Mishima's acute sense for the artful. His descriptions are alive with feeling for that which can be touched and that which can only be dreamed in silence; the characters are formed with broad brushstrokes, and come to life first as if from afar, then more and more in detail. And, it's as if Mishima wanted to show that once in a while, there is love and contentment, and happiness.
It's not easy to write economically and with clarity. It's always easier to wander off a bit on the way instead of going straight ahead. Mishima certainly knows how, and that's what brings such an edge to his writing. This is an author who seems to know what he's saying and why, a rare gift indeed.
And to think I've yet said nothing in praise of Brian Nishii. He's utterly perfect, both here and in "The Sailor". What else is there to say other than that if this man ever recorded any phone book he wished, I'd used one of my credits to listen to it. And I just realized he's recorded Kawabata, too!
This is a gentle story of integrity and redemption set in an island community in Japan.
Shinji is a young and dignified character. His loyalty to his love, and hers to him, shows the commitment of two people who live for each other.
The narrator's performance was understated and perfect for the requirements of the novel.
The restraint, dignity and fidelity of the characters shows the courage of the human soul enduring the difficulties of human life and love.
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