Book Review: Ms Ice Sandwich

Bookcover-Mieko Kawakami- Ms Ice Sandwich“Ms Ice Sandwich’s eyelids are always painted with a thick layer of a kind of electric blue, exactly the same colour as those hard ice lollies that have been sitting in our freezer since last summer.”
Ms. Ice Sandwich is a charming novella.

A boy in fourth grade is the main protagonist, from his perspective the story is being told. His life is not easy. He is raised by his mother, who is absent most of the time. His grandmother is living with them, she is ill and needs home care.

In school, he is being teased by a girl named ‘Tutti’, in his eyes other girls in his class are stupid teenagers with hobbies like silly dancing and who are bullying others. So, he feels somewhat lonely.

His only pleasure are the blue-painted eyes of the unreachable Ms. Ice Sandwich. A woman he sees daily when buying an egg sandwich at her stand in a supermarket.
Things change a little when he gets to know Tutti better, but he is still fascinated by Ms. Ice Sandwich, and he cannot forget her. With Tutti’s help he is figuring out how to address her.
The story is set in contemporary Japan. The overall theme is first love. It teaches you about listening to your heart and taking your chances in the moment.

A novella is usually shorter than a novel, so there are only 92 pages. ‘Ms Ice Sandwich’ is written in a clear written language. The story is narrated in a linear structure. Mieko Kawakami chooses her words in a fresh and interesting way: You read about the inner conflicts of the (nameless) boy. The characters of Tutti and Ms. Ice Sandwich are painted colorfully. The story is bittersweet because of the grandmother’s fate and the sad absence of one parent in both families, the boy’s, and Tutti’s, but everything is mixed with a touch of humor with the ingredients of friendship, forgiveness, and self-confidence.

I liked the writing style of the author, and I am curious about her other books. I had read only one story of Mieko Kawakami, which was published in ‘March was made of Yarn’ before and was impressed by ‘Ms Ice Sandwich’. Surely, I will read ‘Breasts and Eggs’ next, and will write a review on this blog soon.

Reviewed Title:
川上未映子. ミス・アイスサンドイッチ. 2013.
Mieko Kawakami. Ms Ice Sandwich. Translated Louise Heal Kawai. Pushkin Press, 2018 (Cover).

Book Review: March was made of Yarn

March Was Made of YarnSubtitle: Writers Respond to Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown.

This is an anthology of contemporary Japanese authors and translators dealing with the disaster of March 11th  2011 published by Elmar Luke and David Karashima in 2012.

The Japan Foundation supported the publication and therefore proceeds will go to charities in Japan.

It is an inside view of Japan of the March 11th, the aftermath, and the consequences. The stories bear mixed emotions of sorrow, helplessness, love, and  loss, yet the desire to live on and cope with the situation.

It took me a long time to read this book with about 17 pieces of art and non-fiction articles of Yoko Tawada, Kiyoshi Shigematsu, Yoko Ogawa, Hiromi Kawakami, Mieko Kawakami, Shinji Ishii, Ryû Murakami and others. The stories are gripping, but let me feel powerless once in a while,  yet some of them are encouraging on the other side.

The Island of Eternal Life by Yoko Tawada presents a science fiction scene of 2017, where planes no longer fly to isolated Japan. A horrible scenario.

Hiromi Kawakami rewrote her well-known short story God Bless You of 1993 for this anthology.

The title is adopted by March Yarn of Mieko Kawakami about a couple. She is pregnant and has a surreal dream on the March 11th about giving birth to a baby of yarn.

All writers try to see the situation from a different angle. I recommend reading it and let the stories speak for themselves.