where the wild ladies are [book review]

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda is a winner of  the 2021 World Fantasy Awards (which I bought for that reason!) and a collection of Japanese short stories that bring a new view on some traditional Japanese tales, representing a form of empowerment to the women involved in these. (Not that I knew any of them, which makes reading the new versions missing part of the subtext. Maybe the original version should have been included as well for non-local readers unfamiliar with yōkai stories. The book nonetheless contains detailed pointers to all original tales..) The title is inspired from Maurice Sendak’s Where the wild things are (#16 in Children’s Classics). And there is a short story about it, where the narrator is reminiscing his childhood reading this book while his mother’s lover (and presumably his father) is visiting. The whole collection is very good, with ghosts being almost indistinguishable from the living, sharing most of their concerns and woes, if less constrained by customs and duties. And the living accepting their intermission with no reservation or fright. This permeability of the two worlds reminded me of some Murakami short stories. (While several of the stories are connected, under the hat of a sort of ghost job agency, they can be read independently.) And wish the book would not be labelled as fantasy, given its universal message and its infinite distance from heroic fantasy or horror books.

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