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Publisher's Summary

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura's novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it's time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime - a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics - whom he swipes from his company's sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

©2012 Shion Miura (P)2017 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Translation © 2017 Juliet Winters Carpenter.

Critic Reviews

"Brian Nishii is the perfect narrator for this audiobook... The book's translation combined with Nishii's narration makes the story sound and feel Japanese - there's a subtle choppiness, and certain word choices and phrases aren't what native English speakers would say - and it's all entirely fitting and charming....a unique and fascinating listen." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging, unusual, fun

Engaging performance of a topic of importance to all bibliophiles. Fascinating cast of characters. Also, a nice depiction of productive obsession. This makes it sound stuffy, but it isn't - it's fun!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Fun, Light Novel

It's not going to change the world. The characters are pretty much stock characters -- the nerd, the guy who thinks he's much cooler than he is, the beauty who sees beyond beauty (and thus, hope this isn't a SPOILER, falls for the nerd).

The goal isn't that important. Creating a physical dictionary in the internet age? And yet, if you love words and reading, this is a worthwhile, but not a profound, listen. Think of this as dessert, rather than a meal with all major food groups represented.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Low Key Enjoyable Novel

I enjoyed this experience. There is something intriguing to me about stories set in deeply detailed, specialized environments. In this case, the world of Japanese dictionary publishing. It's not a potboiler, in terms of dramatic events, but in exchange one gets intricacies of Japanese office and social culture. As a Japanese language learner, I really enjoyed the focus on words. I could see how this might not be as interesting to folks without a prior relationship to Japanese language. But in encouragement, I will say that the translation is really good - I always felt like I got the context of a situation without over-explaining - and the narrator, Brian Nishii, is excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting read about another culture

What did you like best about The Great Passage? What did you like least?

Cultural study bestIt seemed long and drawn out.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The descriptions of how the characters thought. Nice people to know about.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

He did a good job with interpreting a foreign thinking.

Was The Great Passage worth the listening time?

Only because I was doing something else.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

The Great Passage

I enjoyed the narrator's voice and his ability to give each character their own personality. I found the book a little bit slow, but am glad I finished it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

good translation, boring characters

A book all about language, folded into the story of the making of a dictionary? Right up my alley. There were some nice ruminations on how certain words have a variety of meanings, but overall the novel just didn't wow me. The characters were not that interesting to me, and I even had trouble understanding the author's overall message. Kudos to the translator, I can't imagine figuring out how to get across in English concepts that were probably more nuanced in the original Japanese. I think the translation had little to do with my lukewarm reaction. The translator cannot create compelling characters if the author failed to do so.

[Listened to this as an audio book read by Brian Nishii. I've listened to other books read by this performer and find his delivery to be adequate, but somehow stilted. It just doesn't flow smoothly, seems jerky.]

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

loved it!

I don't understand the extreme depths of all the content but this story was touching and had me tear up at the end.
the voice actor was awesome and pronounced everything so well and made each character his own.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Awkward at a Whole New Level

If you've read one socially awkward book about the many different meanings of Japanese words and language, and the efforts of an unusual cast of characters that forms an unlikely team to create the world's greatest dictionary despite endless obstacles and setbacks, then you've read them all. ;)

This was heartfelt and charming, even though it often reads like a rough week at quiz bowl camp. There's something so uneasy about some of the characters themselves, that you almost feel awkward and uncomfortable just reading about them. . . and I mean that as a compliment, as I think this group of complete misfits was fascinating. I'd like to be friends with all of them. Honestly, I probably am, since I'm also a word nerd and tend to collect unusual people.

When I picked this up, I expected it would suck, and yet I was very close to bumping this up to 5 stars. I think it fell just shy in that I wanted a bit more, especially from some of the side characters. In fact, this is a book that could have benefited from 50 more pages, even though the story is interesting and complete as it is.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Japanese version of The Office without the comedy

You can almost hear the laugh track playing in the author's head as you go through the story. Sadly, these comedic moments don't seem to translate. Between waxing poetic about the quality of paper used to make dictionaries and awkward interactions of the characters, I found it difficult to get through this

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

For those who share the love of words

Kohei Araki falls in love with words and dictionaries as a boy. When a university education makes it clear to him that he's a good but not academic-level lexicographer, he goes to work for Gembu Books, and makes dictionaries.

More than thirty years later, he's nearing retirement. His greatest work, The Great Passage, a top-level dictionary of the Japanese language, is well under way, but not yet complete, and he needs to recruit a successor.

He finds Mitsuya Majimi, a disheveled, seemingly unpromising, young man, who nevertheless proves to share his love of words and their power.

They each find other people along the way, wildly different from each other, and each bringing something different to the dictionary project, and to the other, lesser, dictionaries they make along the way. Those lesser dictionaries, including dictionaries for fictional worlds, help make the dictionary department pay, to keep the company happy while they work on their other, great project.

The plot here is overcoming the challenges of publishing--getting the contributions they need from scholars who don't necessarily share their priorities, getting the specialized paper they need, and other seemingly mundane concerns. The real story is the people--Araki, Majimi, their coworkers, friends, and wives, all centering around the love of words, and what they learn from the words, past dictionaries, and each other.

This doesn't sound like much to describe, but I truly enjoyed this book and the people that populate it. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • mad E
  • 08-09-18

Perfect

Found this from its anime and it’s just as good definitely in my top 3 audiobooks of all time