A Mother And Daughter Going Sightseeing. They see each other.

By Jessica Au

The profile of an ex-boyfriend when he glances at the wine list of a fine restaurant is described as “an advertisement for an expensive watch”. Stairs of a museum in an old Japanese house “low and small, because people were once short and small.” A garden party left “empty wine glasses on the large table, and purple napkins on the ground crumpled.”

The narrator of Jessica Au’s fragile, ghostly novel “Cold Enough for Snow” is an avid observer, full of questions about her place in the world. She travels to Japan with her mother on a vacation that turns into a trip of self-discovery. This is her second visit to Japan, and the memories of her previous visit and her life in front of the crowd are present.

Mother and daughter dine together in small restaurants, visit some of Tokyo’s most distinctive art galleries, and do their best to avoid the autumn rains. The mother, we study, grew up poor in Hong Kong; Now both she and her daughter live in an unnamed Western country. Au avoid specificity; she used a similar presumption in her first novel, “Cargo” (2011), which revolved around a fictional seaside town in her native Australia.

“Cold Enough for Snow” recently won the Inaugural Novel Award, a new biennial award given by three international publishers to “any novel written in English that explores and expand the possibilities of form”. Au’s novel, written without any chapter breaks, deftly uses stream of consciousness to explore the legacy of inherited family traits and the difficulty of breaking.

Au creates a spooky atmosphere through omission – for example, the narrator’s mother and sister are fully sculpted characters, but never mentions her father – and by giving The narrator knows more about her mother’s past lives than she can gather of her own. A window-shopping expedition into Tokyo’s back streets brings out the complex sensibility of déjà vu: “I thought about how familiar this sight is to me, especially with the smell of restaurants around me, but it’s weird, because it’s not mine. childhood, but my mother’s childhood that I thought of, and came from another country there. “

The way in which Au brings physical descriptions to life with existential anxiety reminds me of no other writer as much as Albert Camus. This is especially evident in the opening sequence, as the mother and daughter make their way towards Tokyo’s train station. “During that time, my mother was always close to me, as if she felt the flow of the crowd an electric current, and if we were to be separated, we wouldn’t be able to get back together and just keep going. . increasingly distant from each other. ”

The narrator, who aspires to be a writer, tries to contain her annoyance at her mother’s meekness – self-delusion to the point of almost disappearing. At the same time, she has to face the fact that they are more similar than she wants to admit. “I would eat the leftovers of every meal, even if I wasn’t hungry, how could I not bear to see anything go to waste. At the time, I joked about it too, but what I haven’t said is her frugality, not mine, which I’m repeating.”

But the shared trip to Japan also provides an unexpected closing as the narrator finally sees who her mother is now: an old woman who needs her daughter’s help to put her shoes back on. again.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/books/review/jessica-au-cold-enough-for-snow.html A Mother And Daughter Going Sightseeing. They see each other.

Fry Electronics Team

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