cover image The Rainbow

The Rainbow

Yasunari Kawabata, trans. from the Japanese by Haydn Trowell. Vintage, $17 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-31492-0

Originally published in Japan in 1950 and appearing in English for the first time, this meandering family story from Nobel winner Kawabata (1899–1972; Snow Country) concerns a disjointed household in Tokyo. Mizuhara, an architect, is the patriarch. He has three daughters, born of three different mothers. The eldest, the rebellious Momoko, is taken in by Mizuhara after her mother died by suicide. Mizuhara raises Momoko alongside Asako, his daughter by marriage. He’s met his third daughter, Wakako, only once; she still lives with her courtesan mother in Kyoto. The novel is driven chiefly by Asako’s desire to find Wakako, whom she has never met, but learned about from her own mother, and by the scandalous behavior of Momoko, who allows herself to be seen in public with lovers and is distraught over the death of her former lover in WWII and her mother’s suicide. The book feels like a product of its era; at times it’s slow-moving and formal, punctuated by scenes of strong emotion almost theatrical in tone. This slim volume will be most appreciated by Kawabata completists. (Nov.)