Simply put, it’s a love story with a classic trajectory: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl ... distinguished by the toniness of its particular boy and girl ... It is the obligation of the writer of this kind of story to separate his lovers so that they can find their way back to each other, and Hirano outdoes himself here with multiple impediments to happiness — beginning in that very first conversation, when Makino discovers that Yoko is engaged to someone else. Later, they arrange several meetings — in Paris, in Tokyo — which fall through in increasingly complicated and improbable ways, leaving one or both of them certain that the other has lost interest ... Will there be a resolution to this yearning and mostly unrealized affair? Over to you, dear reader. Of course, all of this has its satisfactions, and I might have yielded to them but for one serious impediment: the book’s translation. Nearly every page is larded with clichés and idioms that distract the reader and undercut the lofty tone Hirano seems to be striving for ... Worse, perhaps, are the less familiar but inept metaphors, some of them involving worrisome internal damage.
The I-narrator of the opening prologue, presented rather like an author’s note, sets up a revealing frame for the love story to come even as he inserts, then immediately elides himself ... Despite declarations of mutual, irrepressible adoration and commitment, years of interruptions and separations must be overcome—a former engagement, creative slumps, war zones, PTSD, natural disasters, deceptive adversaries. True love, of course, conquers all. A major bestseller in Japan already turned into a feature film, this is Hirano’s second anglophoned export, greatly benefiting from Carpenter’s impeccable translation that ensures a leisurely, against-so-many-odds romance for globally aware audiences.
Hirano returns with an overwrought novel of love and longing ... [There] is a clichéd melodramatic twist involving a missed connection and a jealous rival of Yoko from Makino’s musical milieu, which only momentarily enlivens an otherwise slow-moving narrative hobbled by wooden translated prose. The music here is unfortunately discordant.