I struggled writing this review, not because I think the book is terrible but perhaps because this is just one of those novels with a very Japanese aesthetic, and one of the problems I have while reading foreign translations of things. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m reading something the way the author intends, but that’s very minor and arbitrary.
Strange Weather is a beautiful, shy kind of love story between a young woman in her thirties and her Sensei who taught her Japanese in high school. And honestly, it doesn’t read as a love story in case you hate that soppy stuff (which I do). The back and forth interactions between Tsukiko and her Sensei, and the slow development of their relationship is delicate in places and amusing in others.
The only part I was trying to get over was the great age difference between Tsukiko and Sensei, which is about thirty-odd years. It’s a May-December relationship that takes some getting used to, or maybe that’s just me.
You’re drawn into these characters with differences between them (but not exact polar-opposites) and now and then you remember that Sensei is old – he’s very much old – and Tsukiko is in limbo; she never had a ‘successful’ relationship or learned to love. I think that’s what ultimately makes you root for these two people, stranded in the same lonely presence of each other, to fall in love.
Kawakami doesn’t dance around the fact that this is essentially a love story though, and the way that it’s told is so refreshing to readers like me with piss poor attention span. Each ‘chapter’ almost qualifies as a short story, snapshots of the growing relationship between both protagonists.