NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


by Kobo Abe

"[T]he story of an amateur entomologist who wanders alone into a remote seaside village in pursuit of a rare beetle he wants to add to his collection. But the townspeople take him prisoner. They lower him into the sand-pit home of a young widow, a pariah in the poor community, who the villagers have condemned to a life of shoveling back the ever-encroaching dunes that threaten to bury the town." (Description from

I wanted to love this. I really wanted to love this. There is so much here to sift through and analyze -- the helpless feeling of being trapped in a life you are forced into, contemplating the meaninglessness of existence even when your labors are sustaining others, alienation, finding reason in absurdity. And that is barely scratching the surface! However, I just didn't connect with The Woman in the Dunes. I had no feelings at all for the man, the woman or the villagers. The only thing that got to me was the descriptions of sand everywhere all the time -- in their clothes, stuck to their skin, in their mouths, in their food and water. It made me itchy. I found myself very impatient to be finished with the book. But in my push to finish, I did find a great quote that I need to write down and frame: "Defeat begins with the fear that one has lost." I need to remember that when I start feeling like I'm not skilled enough to understand deep literature. Like now. :-) I'm just starting though, right? I have time to figure this out.

I can't say I wouldn't read the author again. He is a celebrated Japanese author, and the descriptions of some of his other books are intriguing. Perhaps I just read this one at the wrong time. Perhaps it just isn't my thing.


Lisa said...

It's always a little disappointing when you really thought you would love a book and didn't. Fortunately, it doesn't happen all that often for me. Hope you really like your next read.

Lezlie said...

Lisa ~ Thanks! I always end up wondering if it was the book or if I just didn't get it.


Passages to the Past said...

I read a book a few months back that I had to put down, because like you I didn't connect with the characters and I could've given two shits to know what happened to them. When that happens, it's time to let go! But, at least you can say you tried it!

Terri B. said...

After you mentioned this book, I saw it at the bookstore and had the same reaction you did! Based on the rather bizarre description I was very tempted. So sorry it didn't work out for you. I've had several books lately that have also left me wondering if the book just wasn't very good or if it was me and the timing was just not right for that particular read.

Lezlie said...

Amy ~ Exactly. I don't think I've actually abandoned one yet, but I there have been a few times I found myself skimming rather than reading.

Terri ~ Those questions are a *huge* sticking point for me! There are some online reading guides I'm thinking of looking into that may give me a different perspective on it. Sometimes after I read one of those, I can better appreciate a book I didn't initially care for.


zetor said...

Shame it didn't live up to your expectations but I do like the quote.

Ladytink_534 said...

At least you got a quote out of it!!!

Lezlie said...

Zetor & Ladytink ~ It showed up at just the right moment, seriously! I always say everything happens for a reason, even reading books that are just OK at the moment. :-)


HomeImprovementNinja said...

I think this book is better than people give it credit for. At the end, he can escape, but chooses to stay.

He went in search of a stupid new beetle so that he would be remembered when he was gone. He spent his life doing meaningless work in an office, and now he is still doing meaningless work, but he's making a difference to the woman in the dunes. If life isn't about work but about the difference we make in other's lives, than maybe it's not such a bad book after all.

Lezlie said...

Home Improvement Ninja ~ I suspect you're right, and you make excellent points. I feel a little bad about this book, because I believe it is victim of a combination of "wrong book, wrong time" and my own still-developing maturity as a serious lit reader. This one and a couple others by Abe are on my radar to go back to in the future.