“The Office of Gardens And Ponds”

Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Hmmmmm. Definitely not a book to give as a gift.

I’ve always had a huge interest in Heian period Japan so was really intrigued about this book. The synopsis sounded interesting too so I was excited to get stuck in.

Miyuki, the widow of an eminent carp fisherman is required to fufill their village’s contract to the Emperor.

What I thought I’d get: The odyssey of a grieving, yet plucky, widow to fufill her husband’s last wishes and save her village. Along the way she meets a colourful cast of characters.

What I got: Penises. Body fluids. Funky smells. Fish. Incredibly awkward sex scenes.

So many penises…

I understand this book was translated from French and I’m not sure if something was lost in the translation but the sexual descriptions were absolutely excruciating. You know those ‘this is how men write sex scenes’ posts that appear on Twitter every so often? This is basically a book of them.

There are some good things about this book. The author clearly has an exhaustive knowledge of Heian period Japan and the book is rich with descriptions of life during this period. The historical and cultural markers can feel a little shoehorned in however with it sometimes seeming like the author has tried to shove in all of their knowledge. I found the use of asterisks and footnotes as opposed to a glossary ruined my immersion a bit.

The characterisation was a little too ephemeral for me to really get a grasp on any of the characters which was a shame as I think Miyuki had a lot of potential.

Overall, just too strange for me. Not a prude by any means but found the sexual overtones of this novel too bonkers to see past. I did learn some stuff about Carp though, which is pretty cool.

2 thoughts on ““The Office of Gardens And Ponds”

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