Title: Tokyo Fiancee
Author: Amelie Nothomb
Who Should Read It? People interested in French or Japanese culture that are able to get past ridiculously horrible protagonists. Or those that have read and enjoyed Amelie Nothomb's other works.
What I Have to Say:
Amelie Nothomb is some weird mixture of French and Belgian and Japanese that I still don't quite understand. And my attempts at understanding left me occasionally confused. Despite each of her works being separated memoirs, each of which can supposedly be read not in conjunction with the others, I feel like, if I wanted to better understand this book, I should have read some of her other works, which she constantly referenced, first. She seemed to just assume, in any case, that I knew all of these things about her that I didn't know.
This would have been okay, except that her simplistic writing style was, in a weird way, captivating, and it left me feeling exceedingly curious. I WANTED to know more about her. Her story of living in Japan and her relationship with a somewhat eccentric Japanese man (well, eccentric, from what I know, for a Japanese man) was fascinating. I loved Amelie and Rinri together; I loved the way their relationship advanced in what she described as a "typical Japanese fashion." I really felt like I understood what it would be like for a westerner to date a Japanese man in Japan. I also loved the brief glimpse I got of what it must be like for a Westerner to live in Japan, and I can only hope that my stay here will be as full of exciting things as hers was.
Unfortunately, my love of all of these things left me absolutely HATING her by the end of the book. Hating her for the type of person she is and some of the things she did. Funny story: the day after I finished this book, I met up with a friend at a cafe in Paris, and I just do happened to end up at a table RIGHT NEXT TO Amelie Nothomb. And it was very difficult to me to conceal my disgust with her. I literally had to stop myself from getting up and asking her "HOW DARE YOU!" or telling her how disgusted I felt with her after reading her book. She was so egotistical, spoiled, ridiculous, and self-centered that it was a wonder anyone could manage to fall in love with her.
It was therefore hard for me to enjoy the book as a whole, even though the writing style was quite lovely and some of the content was brilliant and extraordinarily honest. Because I sort of hated her, the protagonist. And yet it was at the same time compelling enough that I want to go back and read her previous works. To give her the opportunity to redeem herself in my eyes.
Summary: A darling of the French literary scene, Nothomb delivers a complex story of first love set in late 1980s and early 90s Tokyo. Amélie is a 21-year-old Belgian student studying Japanese in Tokyo when she begins tutoring Rinri, a sweet, shy and wealthy 20-year-old, in French. The relationship quickly evolves into a friendship and, soon after that, into romance. Rinri is a young soul who is easily swept up in his love for Amélie, and his charm is undeniable as he courts her, but Amélie wrestles with the classic situation: she loves spending time with Rinri, but she doesnt love him, and she cannot deny her need for independence. Nothomb thankfully forgoes the standard approach to passion and unrequited love, leading the reader to hope the adorable couple dont get married and instead find their own separate happiness. Nicely told, intimate and honest, the book depicts perfectly a nontraditional romance.
Cover Story: I've put the French cover here because I actually read this book in French. The French title, Ni d'Adam, Ni d'Eve, translated From neither Adam nor Eve, does not, in my opinion, fit this book at all. The American title suits it much better. As does the American cover. I absolutely adore the French cover, but it has nothing to do with the book. There is nothing in this book that even remotely lives up to the coolness of the cover.