cover image At the End of the Matinee

At the End of the Matinee

Keiichiro Hirano, trans. from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Amazon Crossing, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5420-0520-3

Hirano (A Man) returns with an overwrought novel of love and longing. Classical guitarist Satoshi Makino first meets war journalist Yoko Komine backstage after one of his concerts in Tokyo. She is already engaged, but the two have an instant connection. Their conversation carries into the after-party and beyond, as email exchanges bring the two closer, but neither knows how to make the first move. After Makino learns Yoko was almost killed in a Baghdad bomb blast, he’s moved to confess his feelings and arranges for them to meet in Paris. Yoko reciprocates, and breaks off her engagement to start a long-distance relationship with Makino while she stays in France. Nine months later, having agreed to reunite in Tokyo, Yoko arrives with Makino nowhere in sight. Instead, she receives a breakup email from him. What follows is a clichéd melodramatic twist involving a missed connection and a jealous rival of Yoko from Makino’s musical milieu, which only momentarily enlivens an otherwise slow-moving narrative hobbled by wooden translated prose (“Embraced by Makino, Yoko was now swept away by the desire to grant all that he sought from her in soul and body”). The music here is unfortunately discordant. (Apr.)