The Sound of Waves

Yukio Mishima

translated from the Japanese by Meredith Weatherby
Vintage 2000 [1956]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Shinji is a poor fisherman, while Hatsue, recently returned from training as a pearl diver, is the daughter of the richest man in the village. When they fall in love, they encounter malicious gossip and Hatsue is forbidden to see Shinji. But she withstands menaces, he shows his worth and outshines his rival, and all ends happily.

The Sound of Waves is a simple, lyrical love story, set on the island of Uta-Jima, which has "about fourteen hundred inhabitants and a coastline of something under three miles". The protagonists and a few other characters are nicely rendered, but Mishima devotes just as much attention to the island, giving such detailed descriptions of locations that one could almost paint or map them. And various scenes depict the daily life of the islanders: fishermen catching octopus, a pedlar selling wares to women diving for abalone, fetching water from a spring, men relaxing in a bath-house, meetings of the Young Men's Association, and so forth. This is romanticised — the women are attractive and the men strong and virile, while the perils of diving and the deprivations of poverty are passed over quickly — but fascinating just the same.

With its classical simplicity and unpretentious charm, The Sound of Waves is an entrancing tale.

June 2003

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%T The Sound of Waves
%A Mishima, Yukio
%M Japanese
%F Weatherby, Meredith
%I Vintage
%D 2000 [1956]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0099289989
%P 183pp