Thursday, October 6, 2022

Review: Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda

Traditional Japanese folktales reimagined as interconnected, contemporary feminist ghost stories, this collection was odd and strangely flat reading. For readers unfamiliar with the Japanese myths and legends these stories are based on, there is an "Inspiration for the Stories" section in the back of the book which helps the reader understand what Matsuda is trying to undermine in her retellings but still doesn't give someone who doesn't know the originals enough of the cultural background and understanding to make this an entirely successful collection. There is a very strong Japanese sensibility here and the stories are all fantastical, populated by the supernatural in some way. The main characters subvert traditional Japanese gender roles, if not in life, then after death as ghosts or other creatures. Each of the stories is strange and complete from a ghostly lover recovered from her watery grave to an aunt against hair removal to a gift shop owner living in the shadow of her namesake shrine to a foxlike young woman and more. Fans of Japanese literature and those who have a working knowledge of the folktales these stories take their inspiration from are probably the best audience for this collection.

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