All The Lovers In The Night

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Pub Date 12 May 2022 | Archive Date 1 Jun 2022

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'Mieko Kawakami is a genius' - Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times
'Compact and supple, it’s a strikingly intelligent feat.' — The New York Times Book Review

From international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami comes All The Lovers In The Night, an extraordinary, deeply moving and insightful story set in contemporary Tokyo.

Fuyuko Irie is a freelance proofreader in her thirties. Living alone, and unable to form meaningful relationships, she has little contact with anyone other than Hijiri, someone she works with. When she sees her reflection, she’s confronted with a tired and spiritless woman who has failed to take control of her own life. Her one source of solace: light. Every Christmas Eve, Fuyuko heads out to catch a glimpse of the lights that fill the Tokyo night. But it is a chance encounter with a man named Mitsutsuka that awakens something new in her. And so her life begins to change.

As Fuyuko starts to see the world in a different light, painful memories from her past begin to resurface. Fuyuko needs to be loved, to be heard, and to be seen. But living in a small world of her own making, will she find the strength to bring down the walls that surround her?

All The Lovers In The Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and captivating, pulsing and poetic, modern and shocking. It’s another unforgettable novel from Japan’s most exciting writer.

Translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

'Mieko Kawakami is a genius' - Naoise Dolan, author of Exciting Times
'Compact and supple, it’s a strikingly intelligent feat.' — The New York Times Book Review

From international literary sensation...

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Featured Reviews

Fuyuko’s 34, she spends her days locked away in her tiny, Tokyo apartment, poring over manuscripts to fulfil her obligations as a freelance copy-editor. Apart from the woman she works for, seemingly confident, single, career woman Hijiri, she’s basically alone. She has one precious thing that’s hers, every Christmas Eve, on her birthday, she walks through the night, surrounded by the glow from houses, shops and streetlights, finding some solace in the atmosphere and the sensations aroused by being bathed in light. Her interactions are minimal, although she’s not exactly exhibiting hikikomori-like behaviour, there’s an intensity to her increasing withdrawal from the outside world that resembles it, together with an uneasy sense that she’s rapidly deteriorating. Then by chance she meets a man Mitsutsuka, who tells her he’s a physics teacher, and they begin a tentative relationship, meeting for coffee while he explains the workings of light and colour. And she sees the possibility of something different, of some form of connection she’s never had.

Mieko Kawakami’s novel starts out at an unhurried pace, deliberately so, as the early sections replicate the mundane nature of Fuyuko’s daily existence, the banality of her routines, her biting isolation, her anxiety which she attempts to mask by drinking to oblivion, night after night in her room. Kawakami contrasts Fuyuko’s world with Hijiri’s and Noriko’s, a married mother and former schoolfriend, all women in their thirties who’ve taken different paths but all floundering, equally isolated and unfulfilled. It’s a story without a plot, an exploration of women’s lives, their inner worlds, their confusions, deftly told, quiet and hovering on the brink of devastation. Although the style’s completely different, the sensibility reminded me at times of reading Carson McCullers’s work, particularly The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, with its cast of lost, lonely, bewildered people. Kawakami’s meticulously-observed narrative gradually drew me in, until I was totally bound up in it, towards the end I was almost scared to turn the pages I was so invested in Fuyuko’s possible fate. Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

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Kawakami is a truly wonderful author and every time I read her writing, I get so completely submerged in the world she creates. This time we explore the concept of love and human companionship. How we think we know people from surface level information. How easily you can lean on people if you are isolated in your day to day activities. And the knock on effect of sexual assault.
I read this in one sitting.

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All the lovers in the night

Oh this was my whole cup of tea and more. Mieko Kawakami said want to read a book about a flawed mid 30 year old woman called Fuyuko who basically besides from her one friend she talks and keeps in contact with, lives a very solitary and lonely life working as a freelance Proofreader. I said yes and I ate that shizzle right up in one sitting.

Just a little preface this was my first Kawakami book and you betcha this will definitely not be my last. I had no expectations going into this one, which is always Nice a new reader to the kamakami work and like I said it didn’t disappoint.

All the lovers In the night is a very quiet, slow and tentative novel that while your reading doesn’t feel like and I would say while reading it slowly takes you on a quite sad and moving path with our main character Fuyuko. This book deals with a few content warnings such as depression, anxiety and alcoholism

This is one of those books again where I just want the reader to experience this one for themselves and if you are anything like me and prefer character driven books this one is for you.

Thank you to netgalley picador the EArc

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“If I thought about things long enough, I would always lose track of my own feelings, which left me with no choice but to proceed as usual, without taking any action.”
Subtle, delicate, effective; Kawakami's realism is absolutely my cup of tea.

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I must admit that I am not a great reader of Japanese fiction. In fact, All the Lovers in the Night is only my first book by Mieko Kawakami, despite the sensational international success of Heaven and Breasts and Eggs. Before this novel, my most recent Japanese reads were two novels by Sayaka Murata: Earthlings and Convenience Store Woman.

At first glance, Fuyuko Irie, the protagonist and narrator of All the Lovers in the Night has many similarities to Murata’s characters. In her mid-thirties, she has been stuck for years in the same job (a proofreader in Fuyuko’s case), just like Keiko in Convenience Store Woman. She is a shy introvert, and has very few interesting things to say about herself:

I couldn’t think of a single thing about me that would be worth sharing. My name is Fuyuko Irie, a freelance proofreader, thirty-four years old. I’ll be turning thirty-five in the winter. I live alone. I’ve been living in the same apartment forever. I was born in Nagano. Out in the country. One of the valleys. I like to go out on a walk once a year on my birthday, Christmas Eve, in the middle of the night.
As in Murata’s novels, societal mores weigh heavily on the protagonist. Fuyuko feels lost and tired under the pressure of society to “conform”: be more affable and outgoing, find a partner, marry and have children.

Murata responds to this theme with black humour (in Convenience Store Woman) or dark, shocking anger (in Earthlings). All the Lovers in the Night is, in comparison, understated but surprisingly moving. In an attempt to break out of her mould, Fuyuko starts drinking until this starts to be a real problem. Once, in one of her inebriated outings, she meets Mitsutsuka and starts a strange friendship with him. Mitsutsuka is non-judgmental, accepting Fuyuko as she is, willing to ignore her weaknesses (not least her awkwardness and reliance on alcohol). He introduces himself as a physics teacher in a local school, and over several meetings at a coffee shop in Tokyo, the two discuss light and colour, a subject of fascination to them both. Fuyuko’s fondness for Mitsutsuka grows and, as we wonder whether it will grow into love, Fuyuko starts spreading her wings, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

This may sound sentimental and there are, indeed, old-fashioned (R/r)omantic aspects to the story, which I don’t mind at all. All the Lovers in the Night is, however, more than an entertaining romance. It approaches the plight of the protagonist (and people like her) with an insight and understanding which make this novel particularly engaging. The first-rate, flowing translation is by Sam Bett and David Boyd.

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This is the kind of book and story that you become fully invested in.
I really didn't have any expectations going into this but it completely absorbed me.
It is also the first book that I've read from Mieko Kawakami but it won't be the last.
It was actually rather relatable, as a thirty year old copywriter and copy editor who works at home myself and I really enjoyed that it wasn't like anything else that I've read before.
This is a story about human connection, isolation, loneliness and much more and one that I would definitely recommend.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Sitting at an easily bingeable 220 pages, the story focuses on Fuyuko who's breezing through life on whatever step is easiest and this short story focuses on her developing more of a sense of self. Encouraged on by Hijiri, a work colleague, Fuyuko dips into trying new things for herself and through a short sequence of events ends up kindling a relationship with a physics teacher (not her own teacher lol homegirl is 35) due to a fixation on light!

Kawakami could in a way be compared to Salley Rooney with her novels always focusing on people, societal standards, interactions ect. I personally didn't enjoy works by Rooney but the prose of all of Kawakamis books never cease to hook me no matter how mundane the story within itself sounds!

Before I wrap up I'd just like to additionally slip in some trigger warnings as this book deals with addiction (specifically alcoholism), depression, and there is a depicted R*pe in chapter 6.

Other than those hefty themes I'd say go for it! I definitely prefer breasts and eggs to all the lovers in the night but at the 200 page mark this book does an amazing job of putting you into the mind of Fuyuko and experiencing her world!

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Thank you to NetGalley and PanMacMillan for the e-ARC.

Fuyuko Irie works as a freelance proofreader. She is in her mid-thirties, and works from home, which leaves her isolated and something of a loner. Her only friend, Hijiri, is also in charge of her workload, and so even this friendship is somewhat unusual. In an effort to get out more, Fuyuko decides to sign up for adult classes in a subject she knows nothing about - here, she meets Mitsutsuka, an older physics teacher, and her isolated world starts to open up.

This is my second Kawakami book, after ‘Heaven’ (now shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize!), which I thought was fine, though not particularly special. This book I enjoyed much more. Like ‘Heaven’, the novel is small in scope and largely propelled by the thoughts and contemplations of the main character, a societal outsider who struggles to make connections.

Kawakami’s writing is instantly funny and endearing, but also touches on deep philosophical themes. Fuyuko’s quiet lifestyle leaves her interactions with other characters quite limited, in stark contrast to Hijiri, who talks in long, sprawling passages about feminism and the nature of authenticity. In these sections, Kawakami introduces the major themes of the novel - Hijiri talks in one section about whether her emotions are truly her own, or if she is simply “quoting” something she has read in a book or seen in a film. This idea is referenced again later when Fuyuko begins pushing herself out of her comfort zone, borrowing clothes from Hijiri and using make-up that she wouldn’t normally. Kawakami invites the reader to question what it means to be authentic - do people have a true nature? Is Fuyuko opening up to the world and growing as a person, or is she just “quoting” the way her more personable and outgoing friend acts?

The romance of the novel is slow and subtle - Fuyuko finds herself gradually falling for and obsessing over a man she knows little about, and their conversations focus more on science and music than themselves as people. In this sense, Fuyuko’s deepest and most meaningful connection is based not on shared experiences or interests, but because he shows her genuine kindness. Their conversations are short and tame, but as Fuyuko comes to accept that this connection is important to her and feelings develop, Kawakami’s imagery leads to beautiful and moving scenes.

I did have issues with the ending of the novel, and I’m not convinced that it is entirely effective. A deeply satisfying climactic scene ends abruptly, and the novel is capped off with a chapter that serves as more of an epilogue than an ending. It all feels a little rushed in a novel that has really taken its time to develop relationships with the characters. Rather than resolution, the novel left me feeling as if it had been building to something that never quite came.

The translation by Sam Bett and David Boyd is excellent, natural and flowing, and Kawakami’s messaging comes through clearly and forcefully. Overall, highly recommended - thoughtful, engaging and easy to read.

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A quiet, tender look at a very mundane life.
I related a lot to Fuyuko and her simple routine, how she felt safety in her isolation, and her anxieties over the emptiness of her life.
This is a slice of life narrative, very character driven and sometimes almost static, but I felt a warmth in this novel that made it very easy to read and very hard to put down.

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I am a big fan of Kawakami’s work since reading Breasts and Eggs and this new novel does not disappoint. Completely absorbing and subtly affecting.

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This is the first book I have read by this author and it wont be the last.
Her writing is just fantastic and I found this book quite moving, the way it covers love, loneliness and human connection. I usually prefer faster paced books but I really enjoyed absorbing the words and there are many lines I have highlighted and will return to which is not something I find myself doing often.

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A growing interest in all things Japanese and a protagonist who shares my day job meant I was powerless to resist requesting this book. While I came for the proofreading, I stayed for the engaging characters and world. In Fuyuko, Mieko Kawakami has created a really interesting character. Having been introduced to her as someone who finds it difficult to interact with other people, I found the title intriguing. How would such a solitary person relate to that? Fuyuko’s internal monologue hits the spot; even those of us without her level of social anxiety run through myriad scenarios and can overthink the simplest of things.
My heart really went out to Fuyuko; she’s profoundly lonely and making bad decisions, not least some weapons-grade self-medication with alcohol. I found it curious that she never mentioned her family, even when recounting a story from her school days. But she does have a couple of friends, of a sort – the outgoing Hijiri and quiet Mitsutsuka. I found the book quite philosophical in places; Hijiri’s profession of trust versus reliance is quite profound. And what tragedy to feel bad enough about one’s life to invent a new one.
All The Lovers In The Night has interesting things to say about women and how they relate to one another. And I must find out more about oshibori – they’re mentioned more often than seems casual. The translation from the Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd flows really well although there were a couple of word choices related to something female that stood out. Perhaps the oddest thing about it though is the title. It is only mentioned right at the end and it seemed quite arbitrary to me; a minor quibble. I think I can add this to the long list of much-enjoyed books about which 20 years ago I’d have said ‘nothing happens’ but in which, really, the whole of life occurs.

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It's a beautiful and sad novel, with the main character going back and forth and barely moving at times... I enjoyed the main character and her life as a translator, and the atmosphere, gloomy and mundane... The format of the ebook had errors which made it difficult to read at times but I still managed to enjoy this one.

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Having enjoyed Mieko Kawakami's previous two novels, I was excited to land an advance copy of her latest work translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd,This one takes a different approach to Heaven, but it does cover similar themes, with a withdrawn protagonist doing their best to make it through the day without suffering too much.

All the Lovers in the Night marks a return to the adult concerns of Breasts and Eggs, albeit with a very different protagonist. Fuyuko is a woman who hides herself away, keeping in minimal contact with the outside world. She works from home, there’s no mention of family, and there’s no sign of any real friends as such, a fact she’s well aware of: A chance encounter with Mitsutsuka, a high-school teacher in his fifties, that changes this, gradually raising what little hope she has of a good life

Kawakami focuses just as much on Fuyuko’s drab life, showing how she lives from day to day, what she does and, more importantly, what she doesn’t do when she’s alone. Unsurprisingly, there’s a traumatic event at the root of her issues, one she must confront if she’s to move on, and Kawakami again shows herself capable here of shocking her readers.

All the Lovers in the Night is well-written, engaging and absorbing without ever becoming too saccharine. It’s confronting in places as Fuyuko starts to fall apart, but it can be beautiful at times, too, particularly when she stops to examine the world around her:

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