Review of ‘Dragon Palace’ by Hiromi Kawakami

An odd, unsettling collection of short stories from the author of The Nakano Thrift Shop and Strange Weather in Tokyo. I would say it has some similarities to Sayaka Murata’s recent collection Life Ceremony, but it turns out that Kawakami’s book was first published in 2002. This new translation is by Ted Goossen.

Dragon Palace book cover, showing eye of octopus.

The first story in the book features a man who used to be an octopus and the narrator keeps buying him dinners of squid. This is the kind of thing you are getting into if you read it. The stories only get stranger after that. Magic realism is probably the genre which best describes it. I also found the same themes which are commonly present in Japanese literature: ancestors, age differences, work, food and dysfunctional relationships.

I wouldn’t say I loved this book, but I found it intriguing and inventive.

Thank you to Stone Bridge Press for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published next week.

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