Title: The Briefcase
Author: Hiromi Kawakami
Translator: Allison Markin Powell
Published by: Counterpoint
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Where I got the book: Public Library
I read Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami last year when I was trying to expand my reading habits beyond English speaking and Western countries. I remember liking the book but honestly couldn’t remember a single thing about it except that I enjoyed the prose. So I decided to pick up another book by Kawamaki and chose The Briefcase because the beautiful cover drew me in.
The Briefcase is a meandering love story between a woman and a man 30 years her senior. Tsukiki is 38, works at an office and lives alone. One night she runs into an old high school teacher of hers, Sensei, at a bar. Slowly over the course of the book their relationship begins to develop, going from occasional drinking buddies, to friends, and finally a sentimental and loving romantic relationship.
Although this is technically a novel, it read more like a collection of short stories to me. The chapters are short, focusing on a particular event or meeting between Tsukiko and Sensei. This is not a book to be quickly devoured, but rather read slowly and savoured. The short chapters and Kawakami’s gentle prose really allow the reader to experience the changing of seasons and the passage of time.
The Briefcase is one of the most realistic love stories I’ve ever read, following two people in their everyday lives over a long period of time. There’s no sudden explosion of passion that drastically changes the character’s lives, just an unexpected reunion that slowly develops into more over time. Tsukiko and Sensei slowly bond over things they enjoy, delicious food at the bar they frequent and good alcohol.
The Briefcase is a beautiful, little love story. Although I don’t think I’ll be revisiting Manazuru, The Briefcase convinced me to pick up more of Hiromi Kawakami’s work in the future.