I write to you today from the comfort of my very lovely bed, nestled away with a good brew, hiding from the crazy weather that we’ve got here for the next couple of days! Yesterday was all heat waves, thunderstorms and rain and today its the same but a slightly cooler version and less lightening bolts. I can see the rain clouds rolling in and the very old incredibly tall tree behind my road is swaying with significant purpose in the wind.
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a week. Those of you who read my blog posts regularly will know that my partner’s house is currently up for sale so we have been spending lots of time painting and pretending to be estate agents of late. Last week was ridiculously exciting as we met two of our favourite local comedians who you’ll often see on the telebox as they came for a viewing – so that was a lovely surprise! We also accepted an offer (a different buyer), and sold the house!… for a grand total of 5 days before it fell through. Ugh!!! This property ladder malarkey is tough.
I also drove a 180 mile roundtrip to spend a few hours socially distant in the garden with my grandparents and mum on Wednesday as it was my Nanna’s 90th birthday. Luckily we got glorious weather and could enjoy many cups of tea and cake, it was lovely after not seeing them for months although difficult not to give them a hug. So a very busy week indeed!
However, I FINALLY got time to get into some really good reading this week so I am excited to be able to share with you my latest review, so here it is.
THE PHONE BOX AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, BY LAURA IMAI MESSINA
We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .
When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.
Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people travel to it from miles around.
Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.
What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.
When you’ve lost everything, what can you find . . ?
Wow, what a synopsis. Firstly, this book is sadly based upon true events, on the Tsunami that occurred in Eastern Japan in 2011. Our main characters, Yui and Takeshi, are the survivors of the Tsunami, but victims of losing members of their immediate family to it. I am always finding myself more drawn to books based upon true events, as it obviously makes the stories more believable and I find that I can empathise more with them and they have a deeper resonation with me.
Secondly, I think we have all sadly at some point, lost a dear loved one, if not many. How many of us have turned to psychic mediums in the hope of hearing from the other side, or looked for messages in the day to day from the ones passed that we love and miss so dearly? The phone box at the edge of the world refers to a phone box in the garden of a place called Bell Gardia, set on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. Here, those who have lost their loved ones pick up the phone to talk to them, with their messages being carried along by the wind.
In the story, Yui is a radio presenter whom has sadly lost her daughter and her mother to the Tsunami, who after receiving a call from a caller about Bell Gardia, decides to take the long journey from Tokyo and experience it for herself. Here she meets Takeshi, a father who has lost his wife to the Tsunami, and now who’s young daughter is silent and whom will not speak to anyone about anything. They are both in moments of loss, loneliness, grief and despair, and are looking for ways to meditate on their losses and connect with their loved ones who have gone to the other side.
The chapters are laid out in a very easy to read way, with long and short chapters each taking turn. It makes for a comforting read of what is a heavy subject matter. I loved the beautiful drawings of birds at the beginning of each chapter and found them to be really stunning and fuelled with symbolism. It reminded me of freedom and peace, which I know many people associate with death but also with healing.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from the writing, as it is a story told about events in Japan obviously steeped in Japanese culture, by an Italian author, translated into English.
However, the writing within this book is truly beautiful in its tone and story and I didn’t feel that anything had been lost along the translation. It’s a tragic yet strangely comforting tale of loss, love, grief and growth.
I loved the descriptions of Bell Gardia and the symbolism behind the phone box. In my mind I could walk around the garden and pick up the phone. Having lost loved ones, I can understand the comfort that the phone could provide, with the feeling that those left behind can connect with those on the other side. Each character in the story had something to bring and a different perspective to present. There is a (albeit predictable) developing relationship between Yui and Takeshi which I found a warmth towards, this relationship originally beginning as a shared understanding of loss due to the Tsunami, and eventually blossoming quietly into something quite different.
Within the book there were many references to Japanese culture with all its sweet treats, festivals and conventions, and I could picture Bell Gardia in my eye, I could see the flowers and the garden, and the different characters entering the phone box or walking around the garden.
I really appreciated the mini chapters after each big chapter, as the mini chapters were like a stage whisper to the reader of extra pieces of information or back story.
Unfortunately this book didn’t quite grab me emotionally as I wanted, which is what I had expected, hence my rating. There were moments when I found it a little slow and a bit ‘Yui did this and Takeshi did that’. I wanted a little bit more emotionally from each character, rather than simple observations or surface level descriptions of emotions which is what I felt we were given. I expected the characters to be riding the grief rollercoaster a little more than they perhaps did, with days of sorrow, anger, disbelief, disconnect etc, which anyone who has been through grief, knows is what happens.
However this is still a beautiful book which is well translated and a great exploration into Japanese culture and humanity. My only further personal wish is that the glossary of Japanese terms which is provided (which could be super helpful!) was at the front of the book rather than at the end. I could really have done with it from the beginning to feel truly immersed in the story and understand what was going on – sadly I only found it once I had got to the end which was a bit late by then!
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 3.5/5
This is a delicate, light, beautiful and quiet read with strong themes of meditation, prayer and healing. It’s a story of sorrow but also of hope, of belonging and of connection. I could see this being a very important book to anyone going through stages of grief currently.
My reasoning for not providing a higher rating is that I wanted a little more emotion from the characters that weren’t quite conveyed through the pages to me; I didn’t connect with it in the way I imagined or wanted to. I also found the book a little staccato in flow, as there were moments that it jumped around a bit in time and character.
What provided me with real peace however is the knowing that this is actually a real place, visited by real people. In Japan, it is known as the ‘Phone of the wind’.
‘Time may pass, but the memory of people we’ve loved doesn’t grow old. It is only we who age.’The Phone Box at the Edge of the World.
Thank you so much to Bonnier Books and Netgalley for a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
Where to buy:
Book Depository: £7.68
WASHED DOWN WITH:
So whilst reading this book I was thinking about a place where I’d found genuine peace, meditation and tranquility which was on my holiday to Mauritius a few years ago. Unless you’ve been I can’t quite put into words what I mean, but the people and the island are so peaceful, happy, calm and relaxed which had a huge influence on my time and wellbeing. It was absolutely more than just a holiday.
I was super fortunate to have visited tea plantations and a factory on my trip, and so of course I brought home as much tea as I could carry! My favourite tea that I returned home with has to be this one, which is Caramel and Honey. It’s a little bit like chai in that its sweet, but as it isn’t spiced you get more of the black tea flavour.
I’ve had many a cup of this before, but this time I took the advice I’d taken from teapigs tea school and actually let this brew for a full 3 minutes; and what a difference it made!
So, unless you’re planning a trip to Mauritius (and if you are please let me know as I want some more!) then you can get this from http://www.mauritiusproducts.com. There are other alternatives available in the UK which I may try once this selection runs out, but I think there’s something quite exciting about consuming a tea you know the backstory to.
So that’s it for this week lovelies! I hope you’ve found todays review insightful and thoughtful, and that you may consider picking up this read. I’ve moved onto my rare birds book subscription book which I’m really hoping to get stuck into and finished by the end of next week – IT’S SO GOOD- and I can’t wait to share it with you all.
As always you can catch me on Instagram and Facebook day to day, or leave a comment below.
But until the next chapter, stay safe, hydrated and if you have them, avoid under boob sweat at all costs.