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The Reading Life: The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi

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Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian
Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

THURSDAY, JULY 22, 2010

THE SHORT STORIES OF CLARICE LISPECTOR

The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi


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The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi (1966, trans. by
Wakako Hironaka and Ann Kostant, 174 pages)
The Doctor's Wife is the best known novel of Sawako
Ariyoshi (Japan, 1931 to 1984). She is among the highest
regarded female authors to emerge in Japan after WWII.
She graduated from college in 1952. Her area of
concentration was the preforming arts with a special interest
in Kubuki theater. After graduation she went to work for a
publishing house and began to contribute articles to literary journals. In 1959 she received a Rockefeller Grant
to study preforming arts for a year at Sarah Lawrence College in the USA. By 1968 she was able to devote
her full efforts to writing novels, short stories and essays. She never married or had children and died
peacefully in her sleep in 1984.

"As for me, I go on. Alone, forever alone"


AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN LITERATURE

The Doctor's Wife centers on the life long conflict of the mother and the wife of Doctor Hanaoska Seishu (1760
to 1835) who was the first modern doctor to preform breast surgery using anesthetics. In this era of
Japanese life the leading male figure in a household was dominant over all others. Ariyoshi does a very good
job in detailing for us the conflicts of the wife and mother-in-law of the household. She portrays well their very
long lasting feelings of mutual dislike and near hatred.
I found the depiction of medical practice in Japan in the early 19th century fascinating. We get to see exactly
how the business end of medical practice worked then and we see the procedures also. The medical focus of
the novel is on breast cancer. At this time there was no way to operate on a woman with breast cancer without
killing her. Dr. Seishu had been experimenting for a long time on animals in order to find a way to preform
pain free surgery. He made use of various mixtures of herbs and modern chemicals and had succeeded on

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The Reading Life: The Doctor's Wife by Sawako Ariyoshi

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animals numerous times. He needed to try his procedures on a human subject. The nature of the character
of the mother in law and the wife come out wonderfully when we see them both demanding to be the first human
test subject. Ariyoshi takes us deeply into the dynamics of the household relationships. The events that
follow are really quite exciting and I will relay no more of the plot of this wonderful book.
I think what I enjoyed most about this book was seeing how medical practice worked in Japan in the early 19th
century. A doctor's office was for sure a family business. The relationships between the two women was very
well done and we get a feel for the marriage also, though this might be underdeveloped.
I recommend The Doctor's Wife very highly.
There is a very subtle intelligence in this book.
and post on another of her novels The River Ki.

I will soon read

Mel u
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Labels: Ariyoshi, Japan, JL4

9 comments:
BookQuoter said...
This sounds like a book I might enjoy. Thanks for the review.

Publishers and authors-if you want me to post on one of


your books, please contact me
I am now publishing short works of fiction, including
flash fiction. If you are interested in this please contact
me.
Your comments on my posts are very much appreciated.

July 22, 2010 at 9:09 AM

JoAnn said...

I am proud to announce I am an Advisory Director of The


Lakeview International Journal of Literature and the
Arts

This sounds excellent... on to my list it goes! Thanks for the review.


July 22, 2010 at 7:56 PM

rereadinglives@gmail.com
Mel u

mel u said...
BookQuoter-thanks very much
Joann-you are very welcome and thank you
July 23, 2010 at 5:07 AM

JoAnn said...
Mel, Just had to tell you about a strange coincidence today. The woman ahead of me at the library desk was
picking up The Doctor's Wife! She said her sister (currently living in Japan) had raved about it. I put my name
on the hold list immediately. It must have been a sign...
July 23, 2010 at 5:19 AM

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mel u said...
Joann-that was quite a coincidence-I hope you are able to read it soon
July 23, 2010 at 5:21 AM

whisperinggums said...
Nice blog, Mel... I too have read and reviewed this one. I've also read her River Ki and Twilight years, but before
my blogging life. They are both wonderful books too - probably better than The doctor's wife in some ways
because they are not quite so shackled by the history.

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July 25, 2010 at 9:12 AM


Comments
mel u said...

IRISH LITERATURE ON THE READING LIFE

whisperinggums-I have a copy of her River Ki and will read it soon, I hope
July 26, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Kinna said...
Thanks for the review. I've read River Ki and really loved it. Glad to see you back.
August 18, 2010 at 5:33 PM

parrish lantern said...


Thank you, another signpost for me to follow in my journey through this nations literature.
April 17, 2011 at 3:32 PM

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