The book I have chosen for review goes perfectly well with the dominant theme of my blog. It is a retelling of a Japanese myth which is nested on the narratives of the women and their subjugation.
It is undoubtedly one of my favorite books that I have read this year.
The Goddess Chronicle authored by Natsuo Kirino in Japanese in 2008 and translated by Rebecca Copeland to English is part of the Myths Series by Canongate Books.
The author weaves a powerful yet mythical tale of a young girl and a goddess with distinct feminist undertones. The ageless theme of the relationship between man and woman, whether human or divine provides the backdrop against which the story of love, betrayal, and oppression is carved.
We hear this tragic tale from Namina or the ‘woman amid the waves’ who was born to the family of Oracles. She was only sixteen when she died and lived in the Realm of Darkness or amongst the dead.
It was the grace and will of Izanami, the Goddess of the Realm of the Dead that led her to tell us her life story. She poignantly says the fate of the goddess is the fate of every woman of the tear-drop shaped island where she was born.
Kamikuu, her sister whose name meant Child of Gods was chosen to be the next Oracle after her Grandmother when she was six. Namina was not allowed to attend the celebrations as she was the impure one.
Her sister was to serve the Realm of Light and Namina was banished to the burial grounds amidst the coffins away from the family to the Realm of Darkness. Both the sisters were to follow separate life paths.
Namina was to reside where the sun sets as she was Yin and Kamikuu was to live where the sun rises as she was Yang. The fates of the two sisters were sealed as per the laws of the land. The elder sister will give birth to a daughter and continue the lineage of the oracle but the generation of the second sister will end with her.
Namina rebels against the strict hierarchical society and runs away from the island, but she was deceived by the people she loved and cared. She is killed minutes after giving birth to a daughter.
She dies and reaches the Yomi, the Realm of Dead where she meets the Izanaki, the sad and miserable Goddess who was trapped in the realm of the dead for eternity by her husband.
In revenge, the Goddess vows to kill 1,000 people every day, and in return, her husband promises to impregnate 1,500 women every day. Namina was unable to forget the realm of the living and requests Goddess to let her go back for closure. Both women seek revenge in their own ways.
The novel very beautifully presents the message that how women both human and divine suffer since time immemorial.
“It’s always the woman who dies,” Goddess tells Namina.
And the suffering goes on in various forms till today.