Wednesday 29 December 2021

Book Review: Life Ceremony: Stories by Murata Sayaka (Short Stories/Literary Fiction)

Title: Life Ceremony: Stories
Author:  Murata Sayaka
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 5 July 2022
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Short Stories / Literary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

With Life Ceremony, the incomparable Sayaka Murata is back with her first collection of short stories ever to be translated into English. In Japan, Murata is particularly admired for her short stories, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, and always imbued with an otherworldly imagination and uncanniness.

In these twelve stories, Murata mixes an unusual cocktail of humor and horror to portray both the loners and outcasts as well as turning the norms and traditions of society on their head to better question them. Whether the stories take place in modern-day Japan, the future, or an alternate reality is left to the reader’s interpretation, as the characters often seem strange in their normality in a frighteningly abnormal world. In “A First-Rate Material”, Nana and Naoki are happily engaged, but Naoki can’t stand the conventional use of deceased people’s bodies for clothing, accessories, and furniture, and a disagreement around this threatens to derail their perfect wedding day. “Lovers on the Breeze” is told from the perspective of a curtain in a child’s bedroom that jealously watches the young girl Naoko as she has her first kiss with a boy from her class and does its best to stop her. “Eating the City” explores the strange norms around food and foraging, while “Hatchling” closes the collection with an extraordinary depiction of the fractured personality of someone who tries too hard to fit in.

In these strange and wonderful stories of family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality, Murata asks above all what it means to be a human in our world and offers answers that surprise and linger.


Life Ceremony was a captivating collection of thought-provoking and engaging short stories by Murata Sayaka. All the stories had something interesting to offer, but my personal favourites were "A First-Rate Material, "Life Ceremony", "A Magnificent Spread", "Body Magic" and "Hatchling". The tales explore a range of themes, but with a focus on dissecting human life and its meaning. Many of the stories raised questions I'd never considered before, so it was interesting to consider my own take on them after reading Murata's 'answers'. If you are already a fan of Murata's writing, reading this book is a must. This is also not a bad place to start if you are new to her work but already enjoy contemporary Japanese fiction.

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

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