Shimura, a middle-aged man living alone in a quiet suburb, begins to notice food has been going missing from his kitchen. He sets up a webcam and monitors it from work, hoping to catch the intruder.
This is a short novella (about a hundred pages) with no clear resolutions for either Shimura or his intruder; if you like books that tie things up then this is not the one for you. I love ambiguity and spaces to fill, and Faye has a real lightness of touch in his storytelling. It’s exactly the kind of writing I like – deceptively simple with beautiful little bits of metaphorical description.
Nagasaki feels more like a long short story than a short novel for some reason (something about its shape that I can’t quite articulate). It’s no bad thing, however, and, like most good short pieces, feels like a contained whole, which is in itself only a glimpse of something wider.
Much of Nagasaki seems to be about loneliness and disconnect, particularly as you age and particularly if you have no real friends or family around you. Shimura has been treading water, and it takes the presence of the intruder to make him realise his isolation – watching the webcam, waiting, he imagines he is watching a wife, what could have been, when really he sees an empty kitchen. Documentaries about robots, and a future where robots care for the old, only compound his sense of disconnect from others. Shimura also experiences the outside world as intrusive, through the sheer noise of cicadas, drunks and construction works. It is only after his discovery of how the intruder has been living (and the economic crash) that the noises quieten, when how alone he feels is brought into sharper focus. It’s almost as if the more he detaches from it, the more the world forces its way in – not to bring connections, but just to highlight that it is there.
I think this book has a really interesting premise (and was apparently based on real events). If you like a quiet, ambiguous but satisfying read, then definitely give Nagasaki a try.
I was kindly sent a review copy by Gallic Books in exchange for an honest review.