Books

New fiction: The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami

There’s a misconception that anything translated is either going to be very serious or exist at a high emotional pitch. The Nakano Thrift Shop disproves this

The thrift shop is a refuge. Enigmatic womaniser Mr Nakano dropped out of Japanese corporate life to run the second-hand store (“we don’t sell antiques”) and his two young employees, Hitomi and Takeo, are shy and unsure of how to fit in. The three, along with Mr Nakano’s artist sister Masayo, form a unit away from mainstream Japan.

The Nakano Thrift Shop is really a love story, albeit a very offbeat one, between Hitomi and Takeo, and about the caring mentor-mentee relationship Hitomi develops with the older Masayo. It’s a gentle book, full of charm, but it never succumbs to tweeness (Kawakami’s frank attitude to sex, squashes any cutesiness).

This August is Women in Translation Month, with a spotlight rightly being turned on female writers who don’t use English. Sometimes there’s a misconception that anything translated is either going to be very serious or exist at a high emotional pitch. The Nakano Thrift Shop disproves this and is actually a rather light read, radiating its own leftfield charisma.

Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop is published by Portobello Books (£12.99)

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