A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—and an obsession with a girl from an affluent family that has haunted him all his life. A True Novel then widens into an examination of Japan’s westernization and the emergence of a middle class.
The winner of Japan’s prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize, Mizumura has written a beautiful novel, with love at its core, that reveals, above all, the power of storytelling.
“A riveting tale of doomed lovers set against the backdrop of postwar Japan…Mizumura’s ambitious literary and cultural preoccupations do not overwhelm the sheer force of her narrative or the beauty of her writing (in an evocative translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter)…A True Novel makes tangible the pain and the legacy of loss…[Its] psychological acuteness, fully realized characters and historical sweep push it out of the realm of pastiche and into something far more alluring and memorable.” —New York Times Book Review
“Concentric narratives connect and transform into a critical appraisal of commercial expansion and cultural decline…notable are Minae’s edgy insights into class distinctions, trans-Pacific cultures, and modernization’s spiritual void. A transparent translation and the author’s stylistic clarity smooth navigation between storylines. Photographs create the sense of browsing through an album—a nearly 900-page album encompassing two continents and several decades.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A smart, literate reimagining of Wuthering Heights…Mizumura’s book is an elegant construction, fully creating and inhabiting its fictional—its truly fictional—world.” —Kirkus
“[A] fascinating example of a cross-cultural adaptation…A True Novel suggests that it isn’t only writers who are influenced by timeless novels but also the forces of history itself.” —Wall Street Journal
“Ambitious…[A True Novel raises] questions about where the line between fiction and remembrance lies.” —Los Angeles Times
“Stories within stories, Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel is like a set of matryoshka dolls, with the gem-like truth at its interior. Reading it, we find great moments of history intertwined with the elegance and vulnerability of the heart’s simplest and most urgent desires.” —Lucy Ferriss, author of The Lost
“With A True Novel, Mizumura delivers a haunting, poetic novel of a young Japanese girl who dances on the precipice between becoming American and remaining Japanese as she also narrates the mysterious tale of an angry Japanese man who conquers and is conquered by the America they both come to know.” —Antoinette van Heugten, best-selling author of Saving Max
“This is a book for readers who yearn for the juice and substance of nineteenth-century novels, for the drugged wonder of immersion in another world, in other souls. A True Novel not only satisfies that yearning but is a commentary on the phenomenon—and, further, a cool accounting of a traditional society’s material gains and cultural losses in the transformations of the last century. Of contemporary writers, only the likes of Ian McEwan or Jane Smiley have achieved this combination of scope and emotional power.” —Anna Shapiro, author of Living on Air
“Mizumura meets her literary challenge with impressive sophistication and irresistible emotional power…” —Booklist (Starred Review)
“Through the night, as wind and rain pummel the house, Minae enters a different reality. This is the enchantment of narrative: the exchange of one world for another, light bulbs for ghost fires. This is the promise of every novel, and Mizumura’s keeps it.” —Music & Literature
“Imaginatively sets Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan… the narrative is colloquial, loose-limbed, and finely detailed; it’s anything but a slavish imitation of the original.” —Library Journal
“[D]eftly translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter…[A True Novel] is also an
ambitious social critique. —Times Literary Supplement