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The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea - Yukio Mishima

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Author: Yukio Mishima / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 March 1999 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Vintage / Title: The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea / ISBN 13: 9780099284796 / ISBN 10: 0099284796 / Alternative EAN: 9780099492696

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    2 Reviews
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      28.02.2011 12:32
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      Mini epic into insanity; a great deal of fun!

      I am quite fussy when it comes to what I read. I often buy books from charity shops, but if they disappoint me I tend to stop, put them down and move on to something else. I tried really hard to get into Sophie Kinsella as allot of my friends love the chick lit genre, but although I found it vaguely amusing it took me ages to read 'Mini Shopaholic' and so I have relinquished realising that it just wasn't in my nature. Perhaps it says allot about me that I find Japanese literature so compelling. I would trade the world of shops, men, fashion, working in the city for a gripping, twisted mini epic such as 'The Sailor That Fell From Grace With The Sea.' If you fancy taking a break from the world of sanity and journeying into the dark side of the human mind then this book is for you.

      A little about the author....

      Heavy weight Japanese author Yukio Mishima is a compelling individual in his own right. Born Kimitake he wrote a huge selection of books, essay and short stories and was nominated for the Nobel prize 3 times. Towards the end of his life he became heavily involved in politics and became revered by leftists and nationalist alike with his very own ideas of nationalism coupled with a dedication to the way of the samurai. At aged 44 he attempted an ill planned coup de ete and was rejected by the crowd. A few minutes after his speech he committed Sepuka (ritual suicide). This is usually done when someone has been shamed or things have gone wrong.

      Plot....

      The plot centres on a spoilt, troubled and confused little boy who wants his single mother all to himself. He and a group of friends have reached the conclusion that the grown ups and the world is an evil, foolish, sentimental place. Together they vow to never experience the sentimentality and emotion that they see as a weakness of the adults. The group commit small but brutal acts that help to rid themselves of emotion. The plot thickens when the boy's single mother meets a handsome sailor and they begin a lusty affair (which the boy watches through a hole in his wall) much to his annoyance. Yet soon he begins to respect the sailor, viewing him as a man who has given up on the world, never to settle down. But soon respect turns to hatred as he realises that the sailor has fallen in love with his mother and plans to settle down. The group plot their revenge on what they see as an ideological betrayal.....

      Atmosphere and narrative....

      This book is horrifying, shocking in unusual ways from start to finish. Mishima's distinctive narrative is descriptive but also focused. Those who get fed up with being spoon fed description will find the narrative particularly attractive. The book is truly a horror, but its nightmare is simplistic, full of emotion, believable and yet sophisticated. The book is uncomfortable to read at times, especially when some of the particularly gory stuff is taking place, but it is nonetheless gripping and Mishima is able to tell horror with such beauty in his words; a delicate choice so as not to completely gross you out, but enough to bring a genuine feeling of disgust.

      The disturbing feeling of the book is added to as throughout the book we skip from the world of the sane to the world of the insane. From the sailor and the mother to the boy and the group. As the book continues the two worlds which are at first completely separate begin to morph into one another as the book builds to its final scenes. As with most Japanese books the end is always left at the peak of emotion, very rarely are we given an afterthought into the rest of the novel. Yet, as it is in this book, when reading the last page everything else in it seems to figure. It had all been building up to this moment and the revelations are well worth the wait.

      Characters....

      Characters have untold dimension which is rare for such a short book, but Mishima allows the audience to view different aspects of their personalities. We see them at their most vulnerable, at their strongest and at their most relaxed and intimate moments. It is interesting that the person we end up disliking the most is a young boy, at first you sort of feel sorry for him, a natural reaction to a child, but by the end you are left with a confusing feeling of anger and disgust for this little boy. For me this is particularly disturbing as I have a daughter. This book really does push you out of your comfort zone.

      The book is also about relationships and the author pays special attention to developing the feelings between the characters. The mother begins by seeming sad, lonely but when she begins her affair with the sailor she comes to life and the romance portrayed between them is highly relatable. Throughout she is a good, hardworking single mother. The Sailor is in many ways her soul mate and you see their affair blossom through believable dialogue and emotion. The relationship between the boy and the sailor is complex. You learn allot about the fragility of both characters. What initially binds them is the boys own perceived idea of the sailor. His own notions of heroism. When these visions are shattered the reader feels regret. The sailor becomes the object of sympathy. Mishima relates more of the sailor's life and troubles and in a way you learn who the sailor really is before the boy does.

      A word about the film...

      I watched the movie online (1976) and it was sorely disappointing. The ideas within the book are what are particular in Japanese themes, custom and ideas about honour and betrayal. It is nearly untranslatable to place into a western context because mostly we don't have these ideas driven into our culture and society. The movie flopped as it took this theme and westernised it. All of the originality that had made it distinct was lost. Don't bother with the film read the book.

      My overall opinion....

      In my opinion, Mishima is one of the most talented authors of the 20th century and deserves a place up along with the greats. I read this book in a couple of days and was truly gripped. One evening I stayed up to until 3 am reading; at the risk of sounding cliché: I just couldn't put it down. When it was over I wanted more and discovered the rest of Mishima's works which are equally gripping and inspiring. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy a subtle psychological horror. The plot is simple, but the characters are anything but. It is a fast read and it an intriguing escape. Horrifyingly entertaining!!

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        11.07.2009 15:28
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        superbly written and a little bleak

        Yukio Mishima was a superb novelist and play wright. This particular story is a shining example of his style of writing and aptly displays his nihilistic tendencies for his characters.

        Noboru is a schoolboy belonging to a clique of friends who dehumanise each other by addressing each other by a number, he lives with his widowed mother Fusako. Fusako is lonely and meets a great guy called Ryuji who is a sailor...

        This book is all about relationships and emotional control.

        It's an excellent read as you'd expect from Yukio Mishima, it reads well and the characters are easy enough to identify with. There's some very disquieting scenes within the book and ultimately it's a tragedy of a superior caliber.

        One scene that stays in memory features a kitten and it is uniquely horrible, it more than adequately displays the talent of Yukio Mishima as a writer and the lack of emotion in one of the main characters.

        Could this book be viewed as an indictment on Japanese cultural mores? can it be viewed as a expression of loathing for a changing culture?

        thats for you to decide when you read this terrific book.

        There was a movie made with Cat Steven's with the same title, it's very loosely related but not worth the viewing unless you're a fan of Cat.

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