Title: The Woman In The Purple Skirt
Author: Natsuko Imamura
Almost every day, the Woman in the Purple Skirt buys a single cream bun and goes to the park, where she sits on a bench to eat it as the local children taunt her. She is observed at all times by the undetected narrator, the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. From a distance the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. Like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, she is single, she lives in a small, run-down apartment, and she is short on money. The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan lures her to a job where she herself works, as a hotel housekeeper; soon the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss. Unfortunately, no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.
Studiously deadpan, highly original, and unsettling, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores the dynamics of envy, the mechanisms of power in the workplace, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, voyeuristic narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.
I’ve read a few Japanese titles before, but this is my first time reading anything by this particular author. I’ve noticed that many Japanese authors employ a certain solemnity in their works, and while this book doesn’t have major character developments, it is still very character-focused and easy to read.
The word that comes to mind for this book is “creepy.” The protagonist is being stalked by a woman in a yellow cardigan who follows her everywhere and knows her daily routine. The blurb claims that this is an attempt at friendship, but the voyeuristic pleasure the stalker derives from watching the protagonist is unsettling. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a fantastic job portraying the stalker’s obsession, which causes the stalker to make significant changes to her life to fit her stalking.
The story may not have had many climactic scenarios, but it was interesting to see how the main character’s life was affected by the stalker’s actions.
Ultimately, I think it’s important to approach books with an open mind and give them a fair chance. While these particular books may not have been my cup of tea, they may still be worth checking out for those interested in the genres.