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The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

All Areas > Entertainment > Book Review

Author: Alo├┐se of Daylesford Book Club, Posted: Monday, 27th January 2020, 09:00

This enchanting book, translated from the French by Euan Cameron, is a real treat.

Set in ancient Japan, Miyuki, the widow of Katsuro takes on her husband’s occupation to supply His Imperial Majesty with carp for the ponds of the Imperial Palace, in order to save the honour of her village.

This involves a long and arduous journey on foot carrying the carp on a pole across her shoulders. The fish must arrive in impeccable condition.

The trek from Shimae to Heian Kyo (today’s Kyoto) proves to be full of challenges with unsavoury characters impeding her walk but Miyuki uses her ingenuity to fulfil her mission.

The writing is lyrical and sometimes sensuous. The story has its comical moments and the contrast between the impoverished village of Shimae and the beauty of the Imperial City is striking.

The descriptions are vivid and one can easily imagine the scenes and colours of the landscape. Even the jacket of the book is beautiful.

Miyuki achieves her goal but not without a peculiar encounter involving a perfume competition. It is a Japanese fairy tale for adults which took Didier Decoin fourteen years to write but it was well worth the wait.

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