Translated from the Japanese by Terry Gallagher
Original Title: いま、会いにゆきます (ima ai ni yukimasu)
Fiction, 2003 (Japan), 2006 (English translation)
Viz Media, trade pb, 263 p.
When Mio suddenly returns home one rainy day, her husband and son can’t believe their eyes. For a year they’ve been mourning her sad and untimely death. Now here she is again. How could such a thing be possible? Did love bring her back from the grave? And most importantly, is she here to stay? Together, the reunited family start looking for answers to these questions. What they discover is a secret buried deep in the past … and the future.I wrote in an earlier post while I was in the middle of reading Be With You, that I wasn’t sure if it was a touching love story or just plain cheesy. The author himself says in the Afterword: “This book uses the framework of a traditional ghost story to say something about time and memory. There is no evil or violence (in fact it is quite sentimental). For me, though, that is what makes this book so real.” Sentimental is an apt description and for me it was the kind of overly sweet story that simply left me feeling manipulated. You know what I mean, don’t you? The kind of story where it feels like the author has purposely written it in a way so as to elicit a certain emotion. I tend to resent that device and I do have a pretty low tolerance for overly saccharine stories and prose, so even though I found it a bit too much, I can understand why it was so popular. I felt the same sense of emotional manipulation in The Notebook, a book and movie that is also extremely popular, so that should tell you whether to listen to my review of this book or not.
Back in 2003, Takuji Ichikawa’s heartbreaking story of a couple’s second chance at first love captivated millions of Japanese readers. The novel was so popular it inspired a blockbuster movie, a top-rated TV series and a best-selling manga. Now published in the U.S., Be With You proves one thing: Love is a miracle that lasts a lifetime and beyond. [From the back cover]
I do like the sentiment behind the story, the idea of a second chance at falling in love, and I usually enjoy stories that deal with memory and the passage of time, but ultimately I was disappointed with the way this one was told. One of my main complaints is that the writing was really quite awkward and childish. I’d love to know how it reads in Japanese but not having read the original I can only guess that perhaps the author was, in fact, going for that effect. On the other hand it could be due to the translation. Either way it seemed almost a bit condescending, and kept me from really getting into the story. Added to that there were a couple of times that I was dragged right out of the story by a description that ran counter to every other assumption I had made about the characters. I imagine most people wouldn’t even notice but trying to figure out whether it was intentional, or not, was highly distracting. The eventual explanation for her mysterious return a year later also felt, to me at least, to be at odds with the tone of the rest of the story, and to be honest, didn’t fit in with my expectations of the book's billing as a “modern Japanese ghost story”. Don’t let my cranky review put you off though; be sure to check out the two reviews below as they both liked the book much more than I did.
I’m a little curious about the film now and wouldn’t mind seeing how it compares to the book. You can read about the movie or watch a trailer at the TBS website. Interestingly, while googling for stuff about the book, I also found out that Jennifer Garner is apparently going to star in an American remake of the movie. Hmmm…
Buy this book at: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca |Amazon.co.uk
My Rating: 2.5/5
(#47 for 2009, Japanese Literature Challenge 3, Reading Japan Project, Lost in Translation Challenge)
Also reviewed at:
Save Ophelia: 'Be With You' features the perfect romance – one that doesn’t require explicit declarations of love or devotion. The love seems natural. What affected me about this book was its lack of any traditional climax or conflict. It relied entirely upon the love story and the story line. It ended up being just enough to hold your attention and create a perfectly enjoyable experience.
Chick with Books: A simple yet beautiful story...
If you've reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.