A review by serendipitysbooks
The Emissary, by Yōko Tawada

mysterious reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


 The Emissary is a slim little dystopian novel from Japan. It’s set in a world beset by climate change and the effects of some sort of disaster - possibly nuclear. National isolation has become the norm as countries attempt to deal with their own difficulties, while keeping those of other countries out. While the young are born fragile and become weaker with time, they are also wise. Meanwhile older people remain strong and healthy, but tend towards melancholy. The story follows Yoshiro and his great-grandson Mumei. As with all dystopian works it critiques recent social and political issues.

For me this book fell into the dreaded “it was fine” category (I’ve been having a lot of those recently and am wondering if it is some sort of reading slump) which means I don’t really have a lot to say. The relationship between Mumei and Yoshiro was sweet. The prose was sparse, as I have come to expect from Japanese novels. I might have preferred a slightly more expansive, less understated story. A good reminder not to mess up the world our children and grandchildren will inherit, and to seek joy and happiness where we can. 

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