The challenge in writing short stories is quite different to writing a full-length novel. You have less pages to not only develop the story but also the character, the narrative and the reader’s connection with the characters. Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories, by Renae Lucas-Hall, manages to meet this challenge with its colourful array of Tokyo-inspired characters and setting.
Tokyo Tales is the second book I’m reviewing from my Love Japan Magazine book giveaway and also the second book of Renae’s I’ve read. I was looking forward to reading it as I don’t get the opportunity to read that many short stories, which are perfect accompaniments to your morning commute.
Tokyo Tales contains fifteen short stories which are set predominantly in Japan’s capital, with the exception of a few which are set in Yokohama and – surprisingly – Australia and York. Each story is compact and is narrated by a different type of character in a different part of Tokyo or elsewhere, from a fashion store worker in Harajuku to a businesswoman in Nihonbashi to an English teacher in Nishi-Azabu.
As you might expect, you’ll naturally enjoy more stories than others depending on your taste. My personal favourites were about a glam young woman being brought back down to earth after being re-united with her now-homeless brother-in-law; an unfortunate Japanese student stuck in a miserable homestay in York; and a young woman struggling with her sister’s obsession with plastic surgery. Each of the stories is unique and there is very little repetition in terms of the characters or stories themselves, which in my personal opinion can be a risk with short stories written by the same author.
That said, the author’s obvious love for shopping, fashion and Japan are a constant theme. The gorgeous illustrations by Japanese artist Yoshimi Ohtani, which feature throughout the short story collection, also make Tokyo Tales a charming read that I think younger female readers in particular would enjoy.
Whether you’ve visited Tokyo before or are dying to go, Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories is a fun and easy read. You can read more about Renae Lucas-Hall’s writing on her website.