Tuesday, January 29, 2013

'The Diving Pool' by Yoko Ogawa

The Diving Pool is actually a collection of three novellas that were originally published in Japan around 1990: The Diving Pool (ダイヴィング・プール), Pregnancy Diary (妊娠 カレンダー), and Dormitory (ドミトリイ). Yoko Ogawa won the Akutagawa Prize for Pregnancy Diary in 1990.

From the publisher's website:
A lonely teenaged girl falls in love with her foster-brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool - an unspoken infatuation that draws out darker possibilities.

A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, but rather than a story of growth the diary reveals a more sinister tale of greed and repulsion.

Out of nostalgia, a woman visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo. There she finds an isolated world shadowed by decay, haunted by absent students and the disturbing figure of the crippled caretaker.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading both The Housekeeper and the Professor, and Hotel Iris, by the same author (click on the links to read my reviews) a couple of years ago. So I'd been meaning to read this collection of three of her earlier stories for quite some time now and I'm glad I finally did.

Much like the two novels, the stories here are told in lovely, spare prose, almost elegant in their simplicity. However, where The Housekeeper and the Professor is a quiet, sweet story, Hotel Iris is a dark, disturbing story of obsession and violence. The stories in The Diving Pool are somewhere in between.

At the start, they each appear simple stories of the everyday. In The Diving Pool, a teenage girl watches her foster-brother, who she is infatuated with, practice diving. In Pregnancy Diary, a younger sister records the details of her sister's pregnancy. In Dormitory, a young wife visits her old dormitory when her nephew starts university and needs a place to stay. But as we read on, the stories begin to reveal the little cruelties of human nature.

The effect is subtle, but Ogawa does a good job at creating tension without you even realizing it. By the end, each story has become something rather unsettling, and in the case of the last story especially, downright creepy. The more time that passes since reading these stories, the more they seem to haunt me.

Revenge, a new collection of stories by Yoko Ogawa, has just been published, and I'm quite looking forward to discovering these new dark tales.
4 stars

Other thoughts on The Diving Pool:
Contemporary Japanese Literature | Sam Still Reading | Melody's Reading Corner | JoV's Book Pyramid | The Parrish Lantern

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Harvill Secker, 2008
[Amazon.com] [BookDepository.com]

January in Japan
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The small print: I purchased this book for my personal library. Links in this post to Amazon or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively. Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission. For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. I probably said the same thing about in my review of one of the three books you mentioned:
    "The Housekeeper and the Professor was a quiet, sweet story, Hotel Iris was a dark, disturbing story of obsession and violence. The stories in The Diving Pool are somewhere in between."

    The Housekeeper and the Professor feels like it was written by a different author than the other two. Thanks for letting me know "Revenge" is out and by the sound of it, it does seem to follow the darker route..!

    Just my opinion, have you thought of coming over to wordpress? Wordpress has fantastic spam filter.

  2. Yay! A review! ;)

    I bought this a few weeks back, and I'm looking forward to reading it - it'll be interesting to compare it to the other two I've read.

    I hope this is the first of many new posts :)

  3. The third story of the Diving Pool was the best, I thought. Some redeeming qualities in the characters unlike those disturbing young girls in the first two stories.

  4. I've only read The Housekeeper and the Professor and it seems as though it's the odd one out. But I've got Revenge and am looking forward to reading it.

  5. I just read my first book by this author a couple of months ago (Hotel Iris). I am definitely interested in reading more.

  6. I'm so excited to read this. Ogawa, for me, is best at the odd situations and characters that stay with you. It's been over a year since I've read Hotel Iris but I still remember it so vividly.

    Also, hi! It's been a while :)

  7. I read this book last year. A very exciting collection of stories

  8. I really enjoyed The Diving Pool and I'm glad you did. The prose is spare, but evokes so much.


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