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Crescent Blues Book Views Scribner (Hardcover), ISBN 0743243331

The facade of a book is often as much a part of the reader's experience as the inner substance, as with Yukari-Waters' compact and beautifully written collection of short stories. Approaching the book in relative ignorance about the Japanese side of World War II, the book proved stimulating enough to stoke my curiosity again, despite weariness of the more familiar "Battle of Britain" perspective on the war.

Book: mary yukari waters, the laws of evening
Each a self-contained, economical portrait, every story evokes a unique perspective on a single life, whilst sharing with readers an utterly convincing evocation of a complex post-war Japan. Unlike Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori, which garnered much critical acclaim, The Laws of Evening does not rework history into a sprawling fantasy epic. The writing adroitly blends the familiar in many World War II novels and films with the experience so little dwelt upon in recent years, of the survivor -- in contrast to that of the combatant. It pithily expresses to great effect the Japanese experience -- in particular, bringing the history to life with minute observation and attention to detail.

The title story provides an example of the book's finer qualities, subtly evoking an all-pervading uncertainty as the protagonist, Sono, contemplates the "afternoon" of middle age giving way to the diluted, pared down evening of a lonely old age. This theme loosely threads together the entire volume, each story featuring a central character's struggle with a rapidly changing society and their approaching mortality. Pre-war norms struggle to find room in an oppressive, inexorable motion towards a future in which America and her values dominate at the expense of Japan's national identity.

Although at times let down by her characters' tendency to lapse into American parlance, even when rendering Japanese, Yukari-Waters' shows impressive verisimilitude. In particular, her evocation of the sensory experiences of her characters links skillfully to their internal lives; as exemplified by "Rationing," in which the elderly narrator's deafness hastens her withdrawal into the past, epitomized by her increasingly visceral reaction to scent. Even when the familiar and comforting slips away, many of the characters experience moments of life-affirming clarity. In this way, The Laws of Evening forms a testament to human resilience and the fascinating "twilight of a civilization."

Maysa M. Hattab

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