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“A True Novel” is, in part, an updating and relocating of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” to postwar Japan. That sounds like it could be quite awful, but Mizumura, avoids the trap of slavishly following Brontë, and in so doing makes her novel something different — not a copy of Brontë’s classic, but a commentary on it, and also on themes, most notably passion and social class, that also interested Brontë, but do not, of course, belong to her.The News on Sunday (Pakistan) talks about literary windows:
A crude indicator of how different Mizumura’s book is from Brontë’s is that it is more than twice as long. The length of Mizumura’s version, however, need not daunt us. It is no less of a page-turner than “Wuthering Heights” and, indeed, thanks to the knowing twists Mizumura gives the form — she is a scholar of French literature and has written on the literary theorist Paul de Man — it is, in some respects, more interesting.
Mizumura has written her own book, but “Wuthering Heights” is always present. Driving the novel, for example, is the Catherine-and-Heathcliff-like passion between a woman called Yoko whose background is respectably upper class and Taro Azuma, a war orphan returned from China, who is not so much working class as a total outcaste.
Mizumura borrows from Brontë, too, in the manner in which the story is related. The main narrative of “Wuthering Heights” is mostly told by one of its characters, a servant named Ellen Dean, to another character, Lockwood. Mizumura takes this story-within-a-story frame further: “A True Novel” is mostly told by a servant named Fumiko to a young man she happens to meet, who tells it in turn to a character called Minae Mizumura, a novelist writing a book not unlike this one and living a life not unlike the novelist Minae Mizumura’s. Fumiko is certainly Mizumura’s Ellen Dean, but Scheherazade seems present as well.
Fumiko is as unreliable a narrator as Ellen Dean, and just as some have seen Ellen Dean, rather than Heathcliff, as the true villain of Brontë’s novel, so it is hard to find Fumiko blameless. Though as with Ellen Dean, it will be easy for unwary readers to sympathize with her and to see her as offering an objective view of both the upper-class Saegusa and Shigemitsu families, and the impoverished background out of which the Heathcliff stand-in, Taro Azuma, emerges. What is undeniable is that Fumiko is capable of telling as riveting story as the gossipy Ellen Dean.
One thing that makes” A True Novel” a welcome update on “Wuthering Heights” is the subtlety with which Mizumura draws the key characters. Azuma, for example, like Heathcliff, is an abused child, but he doesn’t, as a result, turn into a demon. Rather, his obsessive love for Yoko, and her rejection of him for his working-class manner — “He looks so rough, and his speech is rough too. … How could I upset Mama and Papa to marry him? What would Aunt Harue and everyone say?”— drive him to find a way to make himself into someone that even snooty Aunt Harue would accept or, rather, into a person for whom Aunt Harue’s opinions are of no account. His impulse is human rather than demonic. (David Cozy)
Literature has famous ‘windows’, too. Throw your grief out of the window, wait for the window of opportunity when hurt and see into your beloved’s eyes as if it is the window to her soul. The most famous windows are the ones in The Wuthering Heights that help Heathcliff meet Catherine. (Ammara Ahmad)SoloLibri (Italy) reviews Villette; MittimEllan (in Swedish) posts about Wuthering Heights; n-iaise shares a nice Jane Eyre 2011 gif (a film also featured on the Film Costumes tumblr); Bristol Old Vic publishes how 'Artistic Director Tom Morris speaks with actors Madeline Worrall and Felix Hayes about the highlights and challenges of creating Jane Eyre'; Sierra shares her love for Jane Eyre on her tumblr;
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