It was a beautiful dive. His body was straight and perpendicular to the water at entry, and there was almost no splash. A few bubbles rose from the bottom, and then the surface was glassy again.
I liked that shape of his body, with his forehead pressed lightly against his shins and his palms wrapped behind his knees.
As his legs traced a perfect circle in the air, like a compass falling through space, I could feel his body in mine, caressing me inside, closer and warmer and more peaceful than any real embrace. Though he had never held me in his arm, I was sure this feeling was true. – page 44, Diving pool.
Diving pool is a 3-part novella, about love, motherhood, fertility, obsession and how even the most innocent gestures contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.
In The Diving Pool, a lonely teenaged girl falls in love with her foster-brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool – an infatuation that is seeded since childhood.
In Pregnancy Diary, a young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy which is surreal in her inexperienced eyes.
In Dormitory, a woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious tripe amputee with one leg.
The Diving pool made me think about the question whether it is a human nature to be cruel sometimes and I like the way Ogawa contrasts the teenaged girl’s dark thoughts with the foster brother’s (Jun) kindness and that their chasm was wider after Jun discovered her dark side and she is left with no hope of expecting the same infatuation and love from Jun.
The way Ogawa had described the triple amputee / dorm manager making tea was awe inspiring:
My cousin and I watched his preparations as if we were attending some solemn ritual. Pressing the button on the thermos with is toe, he filled the teapot with boiling water, and then still using his toes, he grasped the pot and poured the tea into the cups. The sound of the thin trickle of hot tea fell into the silence of the room.
The manger’s foot was beautiful. Though he must have used it much more than one normally would, it was flawless, without a single cut of bruise – and I realised that I never considered a foot so closely or carefully, not even my own, which I could only vaguely recall.
And that caused me to look down at my neglected feet. LOL. 🙂
Ogawa talks about mathematic whenever she can, the cousin of the protagonist of the dorm is a mathematic students.
Here’s what Hilary Mantel said about Ogawa’s style:
Ogawa is original, elegant, very disturbing. I admire any writer who dares to work on this uneasy territory – we’re on the edge of the unspeakable. The stories seem to penetrate right to the heart of the world, and find it a cold and eerie place. Her spare technique is very skilled. Every word is put to work. She sets up a small vibration , a disturbance, which begins quietly and generates wider and wider ripples of unease. There are no narrative tricks, but the stories generate a surprising amount of tension. You feel as if you’ve touched an icy hand.
She sums up how I really feel about the book.
It is haunting and twisted stories about normal people who discover their own dark possibilities of taking action upon their cruel intentions. This is Ogawa’s darker rendition compared to her “The Housekeeper + The Professor” and I welcomed it except I don’t understand the ending of The Dormitory, about the blood or honey that dripped from the roof. I think I know what it was, but not sure. Can somebody who read the book tell me what you think actually happened?
If I think what I think actually happened, this book gives me the chill really. Not a warm fuzzy spring read if that’s what you are looking for.
I am reading this for 2010 Global Reading Challenge – Asia, A to Z.
Hardback. Publisher: Harvill Secker 2008; Length: 164 pages; Setting: Contemporary Japan. Source: Library Loot. Finished reading at: 7 March 2010
About the writer:
Yoko Ogawa (小川 洋子, Ogawa Yōko, born March 30, 1962) is a Japanese writer. Born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya, Hyōgo, with her husband and son. Since 1988, she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Professor’s Beloved Equation has been made into a movie. In 2006 she co-authored “An Introduction to the World’s Most Elegant Mathematics” with Masahiko Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a dialogue on the extraordinary beauty of numbers.
She has won every major Japanese literary award: