#BookReview Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa @OneworldNews #SweetBeanPaste #DurianSukegawa


Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa is translated from Japanese by Alison Watts. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 2017 by Oneworld Publications. 
'I'm in story heaven with this book.' Cecelia Ahern, author of P.S. I Love You

A charming tale of friendship, love and loneliness in contemporary Japan

Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.

But everything is about to change.

Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed,
with devastating consequences.

Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Translated into English for the first time, Durian Sukegawa’s beautiful prose is capturing hearts all over the world.
My Thoughts: 
I was instantly drawn to this gorgeous looking book, the cherry blossom irresistible to me. Sweet Bean Paste is a short novel really at a little over 200 pages but I found it to be utterly charming, enchanting me and sweeping me away to another place and time. 
When we first meet Sentaro he is a fairly angry man that lacks scope and direction. He has taken a few wrong turns in life and is on the brink of giving up. His two sole purposes are to drink and to work at Doraharu to settle a debt and he does not wish to work a day longer than is absolutely necessary. Doraharu is a confectionery shop whose speciality is Dorayaki. Dorayaki is a pancake filled with the sweet bean paste synonymous with the title. 
Sentaro is distracted and can't make sweet bean paste to save his life. He has little care and attention for what he is doing and is coasting through the days. This is until the day he meets Tokue, an elderly lady who is desperate to work in the shop. She is rebuffed numerous times by Sentaro as being too elderly, too infirm and not up to the job. Sentaro relents and it is a good job he does as Tokue makes the greatest sweet bean paste he has ever tasted and the shop begins to become very successful. That is until people start making judgments based on things they don't understand and the past slowly starts to impact on the present for both Sentaro and Tokue. 
 I simply adored what is on the surface a very simple story of an unlikely friendship but upon digging a little the reader is presented with an exploration of prejudice, injustice and the judgment of others and the healing and redemptive power of acceptance. 
The prose here is simply sublime. I could almost sense myself walking down the street of cherry blossom and feel the wind wafting the scents of that and the sweet pancakes on the breeze. Ultimately a very moving story and one that I will remember for some time to come. 
A perfect book to continue my exploration of Japanese fiction. Would love to hear of any other recommendations that people have. 
About the Author:  
Durian Sukegawa studied oriental philosophy at Waseda University, before going on to work as a reporter in Berlin and Cambodia in the early 1990s. He has written a number of books and essays, TV programmes and films. He lives in Tokyo.

Alison Watts is a freelance translator, translating literature from Japanese into English. She lives in Ibaraki, Japan.

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