May 30, 2015

ARC Review: The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw

Review of the novel The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw

Title: The Snow Kimono

Author: Mark Henshaw

Publisher: Text Publishing

Expected Date of Publication: June 9th, 2015

Number of Pages: 416

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review


Paris, 1989. Recently retired police inspector Auguste Jovert receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter. Two days later, a stranger knocks on his door. His name is Tadashi Omura, and he is a former law professor. He tells Jovert stories about his life, and about a man named Katsuo Ikeda, whom he met when they were both children and who later became a successful writer.

Set in France, Japan, and Algeria, The Snow Kimono is a jigsaw puzzle of a novel. The stories that Jovert and Omura tell each other fit together in unpredictable ways. Each new story changes the possibilities of what might happen next. Little by little we glimpse how these men have lied to themselves and to each other. These lies are about to catch up with them.

A quarter of a century after the best-selling, multi-award-winning Out of the Line of Fire, Mark Henshaw returns with a novel that is both a psychological thriller and an unforgettable meditation on love and loss, memory and it's deceptions, and the things that bind us to others. 


Lately, it seems like no matter what book I pick up will have to do with Japan. Even though I'm not doing it on purpose it will be either by a Japanse writer or the story will take place in Japan. The Snow Kimono falls into the second category, at least a part of the story occurs there. Of course, the word kimono at the title should be enough to indicate it, but the summary of this novel is intriguing, so I couldn't really resist reading it. 

After the shock of learning that he has a daughter in Algeria, inspector Jovert gets to know his neighbour Tadashi Omura. The Japanese man has to share an interesting story with the inspector, although he never explains the reason he feels the urge to do so. As Omura's life unravels we learn more about his childhood friend, Katsuo Ikeda, who has played a major part in the story that has brought the elderly man into the present. In the meantime, Omura's complicated story forces Jovert to face his own, buried memories. 

The story of The Snow Kimono is filled with love and loss. Great emotions, as well as relationships that feel strong, lead to isolation. Secrets well-hidden eventually come to light and drive the lives of the protagonists into unexpected paths. Memory is a savage editor. It cut's time's throat. In the end, the lives of the people involved seem staged by this strange fate. It's like all of this happened in order to make Jovert and Omura do what they should long ago. But the story is not just emotional. At times, it's shocking and disturbing, making the crimes committed even more painful. 

Jovert and Omura are both very likeable characters. The Japanese man at the beginning seems a little weird because he acts like a stalker. He waits for Jovert outside of his apartment, he invites himself in it and even makes an appointment for dinner without asking the inspector beforehand. But as we learn more about his life, we see that he is a man of principle. The French man, on the other hand, is someone that hasn't come to terms that he's retired. This is the reason why he feels that he's missing something from his life. He's offered, though, another explanation for this emptiness and this is the existence of his daughter. At first, he is sceptical towards Omura, but who wouldn't be? Lastly, Katsuo is a self-centered character. He has a way of looking down on everyone else and plays with their feelings. He is the reason for many of Omura's misfortunes. 

The Snow Kimono is well-written. The narrative is poetic and this makes it a heartfelt read. Sometimes I lost myself between the stories because the author jumped from one character to another without an introduction or a transitional passage. At other times, I got the feeling that I was reading more Katsuo's story than that of Omura or Jovert. Indeed, most of the narrative concerned incidents from Katsuo's life that Omura was present. Nevertheless, the end was rewarding and I forgot most of my objections.

After reading this novel, I want to search the rest of Mark Henshaw's books. The writing impressed me and the story made me feel a variety of emotions. So, I would say that The Snow Kimono is a novel worth reading. I would recommend it to everyone, especially those who like deep, emotional reads.  

So, my advice is...

Take a walk on the snow! 


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