Yellow Cardigan’s failure to reveal anything about her own life or describe anything about her own actions disorients the reader and adds to a growing sense of foreboding ... The Woman in the Purple Skirt is an apolitical novel, but evidence of the challenges facing Japan’s economy and culture are everywhere. Unreliable employment and limited professional opportunities are the lived reality of Japan’s have-nots. They invisibly shape the way people live no less than Yellow Cardigan invisibly interferes with Purple Skirt. And at the heart of the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan’s obsession is an unsated desire to initiate a relationship—to form, not a sexual or romantic bond, but a connection to any other person.
Studiously deadpan and chillingly voyeuristic, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores envy, loneliness, power dynamics and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, suspenseful narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.
Japanese author Imamura invites the reader to become a voyeur of the everyday in her graceful English-language debut, in which plot takes a backseat to character study ... Psychological thrillers fans who appreciate subtlety should take a look.
Gradually, as Imamura’s taut narrative unfolds, we realize just how much of her own life the narrator is willing to give up or, indeed, destroy for the sake of her obsession ... Imamura’s pacing is as deft and quick as the best thrillers, but her prose is also understated and quietly subtle. Occasionally the dialogue can feel somewhat canned ... Still, this is a minor complaint of a novel that is, overall, a resounding success. A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else.