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The Great Passage by Shion Miura

Book cover

The Great Passage

Most of the book reviews I write are for things I have received as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers scheme. I don’t enjoy all of them but I promised I would write an honest review and so I do and publish it here. I don’t attempt to review everything I read, not even things that I liked a lot, but every now and then a tome catches my imagination and prompts me to respond.

The most recent example – finished last night although I’ve been working through it between other things for a couple of months – is The Great Passage by Shion Miura. It is a novel around the 15 year process of creating a Japanese dictionary and it isn’t a gripping thriller, engaging mystery or intense sci-fi drama. It is mainly about words – Japanese words – and the relationships of a small group of people involved in creating the titular reference work but I found that it wasn’t lost in translation.

I think the reason the story of Majime and his fellow editors and friends appealed was that it captures two of my favourite characteristics of a good book: characters I enjoy empathising with and a delight in language. It doesn’t matter that the language isn’t English; the magic of words and their ability to send the imagination on a voyage (hence the passage of the title) make the difference of its cultural setting a delight rather than a barrier.

Oh, and like many a good movie, there is a bonus feature if you carry on to the end!

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