Review – The Goddess Chronicle

Cover of The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo KirinoThe Goddess Chronicle, Natsuo Kirino, trans. Rebecca Copeland

This is a really good retelling of the story of Izanagi and Izanami, with a dual thread of story where a young woman’s life echoes that of the goddess as she finally goes to serve her. The translation seems to capture the flavour of the original, a sort of tone that seems to be as distinct to Japanese stories as there is one I find distinct in Russian stories. It’s mostly simplistic language, which maintains that fairytale feel.

I wasn’t a big fan of the narrative voice, though. Sometimes it’s first person, sometimes third, and it’s not always clear where/why the switch has happened. I felt like I didn’t always follow the reasoning behind the characters’ thoughts, particularly not in the last page or so, and Izanami as a personification of all the sorrows of all women didn’t work for me. Like, she’s a “woman among women”, for giving birth and being abandoned by a man. So not to give birth, not to participate in that aspect of femininity, means you’re not properly a woman? You haven’t had real female experiences? Hm.

There are some great moments of tension, grief and understanding, and some beautiful description, but it doesn’t come together right for me. Part of that might be because I’m definitely missing context; my only other contact with the story of Izanagi and Izanami is round the edges in Persona 4, and I’m not sure that even really touches on it much — it’s more from meta about the game than in the game itself. So it’s difficult to really contextualise this retelling and the commentary it makes on the original story, which is always a shame when reading a retelling, for me.

Rating: 2/5

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2 thoughts on “Review – The Goddess Chronicle

  1. This book sounded amazing on the first paragraph, I love Japanese mythology and have yet to see a book in English about it – but I was quickly deflated by the rest of the review. Sorry to hear the narrative voice was troubling, plus the mother = woman part sounds so problematic.

    • A friend of mine gave it a very positive review, so it might be worth trying anyway! It might just not have been for me. But yeah, the woman = mother (and betrayed by a man — that was also a key part) just seemed weird to me, since I have no interest in either men or babies!

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