The Diving Pool – Yoko Ogawa

April 21, 2010 § 20 Comments

So I never sit here hoping for a good dive, and I’m never disappointed by a bad one. Jun’s graceful body cuts through these childish emotions to reach the deepest place inside me.

The Diving Pool is one of three novellas/short stories in the book by the same title. After having read and loved The Housekeeper and the Professor earlier this year, I made up my mind to try this book out. Also because in this book is the story The Pregnancy Diary, which earned Ogawa an Akutagawa Prize. But really, if you’ve read The Housekeeper and the Professor and expecting the same from Ogawa in this book, you’d be in for a mighty surprise.

In just 50 or so pages, Ogawa manages to create an environment that is so tense, I felt like I was constantly trying to keep my head above water. But at the same time, there was an element of melancholy, of sadness, of loneliness – it felt gentle almost. While reading it, I felt like I was getting shocked one moment, then soothed for the next couple of pages, then sent into shock again, only to get soothed once more.

It was sad that someone would be so kind.

I really don’t want to give anything away about the story, not even about the narrator (the story is told in first person), or what actually happens in the story. But for a good part of the story, I was made to think, to feel, to empathise, without feeling like I was forced to havae those feelings and emotions. And I thought, maybe, different people might read differently into the story and its characters, because so much of how you’d feel towards them would depend on your own thought processes and emotional levels.

Please don’t read this paragraph if you’ve not read the book/story: I’m copying this straight from what I wrote in my notebook right after I finished reading the story: Parts where Aya was almost torturing Rie, making her cry on purpose, my heart just contracted, it was a little painful to read about Aya’s “cruel heart.” She didn’t feel nearly as cruel as a person, and so during those times, I found myself wondering why she would want to do that to Rie, what gratification did she get out of it? The ending for me was also a little vague, and threw me off balance. If Jun knew everything all along, why didn’t he do anything about it? Especially since Aya observed that he had a “sincerity” to him. It felt like a contradiction of sorts, because while Aya was being “physically cruel” by doing those things to Rie, Jun felt to me to be “emotionally/mentally cruel”, because he let Aya continue doing those things, while at the same time, pretending(?) to care so much for Rie’s well-being. End.

I really liked how eerie the story felt; how there were secrets laid upon secrets, how feelings were masked or expressed.

Rating: 4.5

* Note: I had continued to read the second story, Pregnancy Diary, immediately after penning down my thoughts, but two pages into that second story and I knew I had to put the book down for a bit if I wanted to be fair. The Diving Pool had given me such a strong impression, especially the narrator, that I had unconsciously carried her into the second story. I’ve since had to return the book to the library, so it might be a while before I get to the 2 other stories in this book. But I’m definitely keen to finish it.

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§ 20 Responses to The Diving Pool – Yoko Ogawa

  • Eva says:

    I stopped reading where you told me to. šŸ™‚ I wasn’t a huge fan of Housekeeper and the Professor, but I like to give authors second chances. So would you say I might like this one?

    • Mark David says:

      I can tell you that there aren’t any graphic scenes in the book but you might get a very eerie feeling all throughout the stories. They’re disturbing in a very subtle way šŸ™‚

    • Michelle says:

      I remember you not being such a great fan of The Housekeeper and the Professor because of the subject matter. But I’m not quite sure what you thought of her writing style though, Eva. If you rather liked her style there: a little quiet, simple language, then yes, I think you might like this one. =)

  • chasing bawa says:

    I still haven’t tried Yoko Ogawa, although I’ve heard so much about her. One day! I like how you try to be fair. You’re right, sometimes it’s just not the right time to read a story, especially if you’re still affected by the previous one.

    • Michelle says:

      I’m actually a little sad that I couldn’t finish the book before returning it to the library, but at that point in time, it felt crucial that I put the book down for a couple of days. And then another book caught up with me, and well, let’s just say I kept the book away for much longer than necessary. But still. I think I’ll enjoy the remaining 2 stories, so I’m looking forward to having the book in my home again, hopefully soon.

  • Mark David says:

    I agree with practically everything you said. This book is just fascinating in construction. The stories, especially the title story, do stick with you even long after you’ve finished reading them. It’s like a psychological thriller; so subtle in execution and yet so riveting. Trust me, they’ll be haunting you for a couple of days (if not even longer) :p

    I gave this book 5 stars šŸ™‚

    • Michelle says:

      I like how you described it as a ‘psychological thriller’, though I’m not sure I felt quite the same way. Maybe it didn’t feel quite like a ‘thriller’ for me. But The Diving Pool was chilling, and I’ve heard that the remaining 2 are quite similar in eerie-ness.

  • Mel u says:

    I really liked all three of these stories-I am not sure which I liked best-

    • Michelle says:

      I don’t think it’s quite as easy to compare between stories. So I completely understand why you can’t tell which you liked best. But I’m glad to know you liked all three of them. =)

  • JoV says:

    Hope you get to read the rest of the story soon. The last story gives me the shivers for a long time.

  • Amanda says:

    This sounds intriguing, and I stopped when you said I should. I loved Housekeeper and would like to try more work by Ogawa. It sounds like this is different but still very good.

    • Michelle says:

      This book is considererably different from The Housekeeper, but her writing style did feel rather similar, with the difference being that this story is many times more eerie.

  • Serena says:

    Sounds like a very powerful book of short stories.

  • Nymeth says:

    I can’t tell you how curious about this novella you’ve made me, Michelle!

  • Okay, this is clearly the next Yoko Ogawa set I should try out. I loved The Housekeeper and the Professor, but I didn’t know which was the next book I should try out by her. Thanks for the lovely review! I’m totally intrigued and would have tried it out based on this review even if I’ve never read anything by Yoko Ogawa previously. 8D

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for liking my post. =) That title story really did stay with me for a while, it was THAT convincing, so I hope you’ll like the story too, and hopefully the rest of the book as well.

  • Vishy says:

    Interesting review! I loved ‘The Housekeeper and the Professor’ and recently read Ogawa’s ‘Hotel Iris’. I was expecting something similar to ‘The Housekeeper and the Professor’ and I was quite surprised that that ‘Hotel Iris’ was so different. When I read your review of ‘The Diving Pool’, I felt that it might be similar to ‘Hotel Iris’. Ogawa seems to be a versatile writer. I will have to read ‘The Diving Pool’ now.

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