Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi

This book is really a short, exquisite piece! The title pretty much tells you who it's about (Kae is the doctor's wife the title refers to), but there are two main characters. One is her mother-in-law, Otsugi, whom she initially admires and has a close relationship too, and the other one is her husband, Seishu.

So basically Kae has admired Otsugi since she was a little girl, and was thrilled when she was invited to be her daughter-in-law. The two had a close relationship until Seishu came back from Kyoto (she got married without her husband there... Weird, I know) and it turns out that Otsugi has some kind of Freudian issue where she has to be the number 1 woman in her son's life. So they end up competing for his affection by pretending to be model women.

The tone of the book is very restrained. While I know how Kae and Otsugi feel, I never really dive headfirst into their emotions. Even though that would normally be a bad thing, I think it works well for this book, where daughter-in-laws (and women in general) were expected to be restrained and demure.

And because this book basically covers Kae's life in fifteen short chapters (it's 174 pages total), there's a lot of things that get glossed over. Only the important stuff is covered.

Of course, this also means that despite the huge numbers of characters in the book (Otsugi gave birth to 7 kids), the only ones that felt real were Kae, Otsugi, Seishu, and to a lesser extent, two of his sisters.

If you're looking to go back in time with a short, quiet piece, you should pick up this book. I'm definitely interested in reading more of the author's works, and hopefully the libraries in Japan have more.


  1. This sounds really good! I hadn't heard of it, but I am adding it to my wish list. I enjoy can always use short books to read in between my longer ones.

    1. Hope you enjoy it! It's like a mini-biography, but I thought the way it was written was very interesting(:


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