Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon: old favorites?

The Sunday

My book group is reading The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki, this month. It's a book I read probably 20 years ago, and I remember really liking it. I've kept it on my "good" book shelf, the one where I keep classics or nice hardbacks, books I connected with in some way. How strange it was to open it up again and start reading, and find that I remember virtually nothing about this book.

It's like reading it for the first time. It's very disconcerting to me, because I usually remember something about a book I've read, other than just that I liked it.

I am enjoying the book, however. As usual, I find the marker for this is how late I am willing to stay up reading the book, even though I know I have to get up at 6 the next morning as usual. I've definitely sacrificed some sleep reading this book.

It's the tale of four sisters, part of an aristocratic Japanese family that has seen better days, in the years leading up to World War II. It is one of those novels that concerns itself with the details of everyday private life, rather than the grand, sweeping events of public life. And not only do the details give a picture of a bygone life in Japan, which I find fascinating, they also accumulate slowly to create a kind of realism that is really engaging.

The result is a delicately beautiful novel, a book that transports you to another world. I love the descriptions of the natural world around them, of the women's clothing, of their daily habits, of their intricate relationships with each other. This is a great example of a novel that does not have a traditionally strong plot that nevertheless keeps me engaged, turning the pages, reading past my bedtime!

So has anyone else had that experience--re-reading a book and not remembering anything about it? Or should I be consulting a memory specialist?


Iliana said...

That's definitely happened to me with some books. It's a bit sad when it's a book I remember loving and then I can barely remember! haha...

And, by the way I also read The Makioka Sisters for a book group and it's also on my keeper shelf :)

Gentle Reader said...

iliana--I know--sad, right? And I'm glad The Makioka Sisters is a keeper for you, too!