Tuesday 22 December 2020

Book Review: Heaven by Kawakami Mieko (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: Heaven
Author: Kawakami Mieko
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: 20 April 2021 (2009)
eBook - PDF
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a 14-year-old student who subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy chooses to suffer in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormentors.

These raw and realistic portrayals of bullying are counterbalanced by textured exposition of the philosophical and religious debates concerning violence to which the weak are subjected.

Kawakami's simple yet profound new work stands as a dazzling testament to her literary talent. There can be little doubt that it has cemented her reputation as one of the most important young authors working to expand the boundaries of contemporary Japanese literature.


Heaven is thought-provoking read on many levels. The intense descriptions of the acts of bullying would likely make this an uncomfortable read for those who have themselves gone through such experiences, but these scenes are in no way gratuitous, being instead the starting point for a moral debate on violence in all its forms. The scenes of friendship between the two victims help to balance the narrative, offering some lighter moments amidst the general gloom, and the ending also adds to this glimmer of hope. This is a visceral work that poses a lot of deep and important questions, while also shining a light on bullying in schools. At just over 100 pages, it is also a fairly short read, though, and I got through it in about an hour and a half. Recommended for readers who enjoy darker, thoughtful fiction, but be aware there are some harrowing scenes.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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