Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Japan: The Goddess Chronicle, by Natsuo Kirino


Some countries have too many fine authors to choose just one book. So, even though I had already read a book from Japan for this project, I decided that The Goddess Chronicle looked interesting enough that I would read another. Even if it means the project will take longer overall (I suspect I will choose extra books from a number of other countries, too).

The Goddess Chronicle is based on the Japanese legend of the gods Izanami and Izanagi. In the first part of the book, two sisters are born into the family of the Oracle on a small island which I suspect from the description is located somewhere in the area of Okinawa. They are inseparable, until, on her sixth birthday, Kamikuu is chosen to be the next Oracle, in succession to her grandmother, and enters a rigorous training. When the grandmother dies some years later, and Kamikuu takes over her role, her younger sister Namima discovers that she is to be the priestess of darkness, and live in isolation at the island's cemetery.

Namima who has fallen in love with a young man, Mahito, rebels against this role. Together the two lovers escape the island. But things don't work out as Namima had hoped. Namima finds herself in the underworld serving the goddess Izanami, but she wishes to return to the island for revenge.

I'm not sure how much of the book is drawn from the original legend, but I suspect that portions of the latter part of the book come from the original myth, and that the story of Namima and Kamikuu is the author's own invention. Natsuo Kirino has written a number of earlier books, chiefly crime fiction. This novel, too, is rather dark, in a much more mythic way. I found it quite spellbinding, and read it quickly, as it was hard to put down. However the parts near the end that appeared to be traditional were a little harder to follow at times than the parts that seemed original. The modern mind, perhaps, is a little less foreign than the centuries old legends.

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