Of Dogs and Walls

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

An interesting exploration of grief, memory, and family. The time jumps were a little difficult to understand occasionally, but the narrative was really interesting when it was all put together. There's some magical realism and Japanese folklore tales mixed up in here, too, and the resulting story is intriguing, but I wouldn't call it engrossing. Overall, a lovely little book, but a bit too disjointed for me.
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Of Dogs and Walls is a collection of two short stories from Yuko Tsushima. In both stories, the central character is a middle-aged single woman raised by a single mother and struggling to get out from under her mother's influence.

The first story, The Watery Realm, starts with a humdrum account of a mother and her child's fascination with a castle decoration for his aquarium, This segues into memories of paternal loss and maternal conflict, all bound up with the fears that water holds for the people in the story. In the second, Of Dogs and Walls, the protagonist sees a strange shape in a wall and her mind is cast back to her youth and her relationship with her developmentally-challenged older brother, and their family dogs.

Both stories give an interesting twist after seemingly banal starts and lead to affecting tales of heartbreak and loss.
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These two Japanese stories from acclaimed author Yuko Tsushima comprise a meditation on memory, loss and family, a series of vignettes told from the point of view of the daughter of the family, now a mother herself, which explore the tangled threads that bind them all. The style is lyrical, rather dream-like, with some poignant moments, but overall I fund the two tales somewhat inconsequential. Enjoyable but not, for me, particularly engaging.
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I read these two shorts in one sitting and found them delightful. I loved the way Tsushima's tales flowed between generations, especially in "The Watery Realm", where that movement mirrored the water imagery. In some ways, these are more a series of vignettes than stories with a beginning, middle, and end, but that lent them a dream-like quality that worked well. Of Dogs and Walls is a wonderful read for anyone looking for an evening's entertainment and, indeed, is of worth to budding authors looking for examples of different story forms. 4.5 stars
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Both stories are slow and meditative, though not without interest and some quite beautiful images - especially in the first, revolving around water. The downside is that the stories seem to meander more than develop, but the writing is engaging even if, eventually, there isn't a great deal of resonance by either story's end. Personally, I found the stories of most interest because of their focus on a country and society outside my own,
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Fairly well-written with the occasional haunting image but a couple of very uninteresting and unimpressive stories here. Bland characters, muddled storytelling, barely any story to speak of – not difficult to see why this author is unknown!
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Told from the point of view of a mother, whose unfaithful husband drowned after abandoning her and their young son, the first of two short stories in this short read, is themed around water - the spirits that inhabit the water and torment her, the water in her son's fish tank, the water that leaks into their home, the water that pours from her eyes as her heart breaks... The prose is beautifully measured, languid and dreamy. The story woven with ebbs and flows of myths.
The second story also features themes of loss: a dog, a brother, love and innocence. Told in the same dreamy prose, as it flits between reality, memories and fantasies. Over the course of a couple of stories, Tsushima's style shines through the foggy worlds that her characters drift through. A wonderful languid read.
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