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Sweet Bean Paste by Tetsuya Akikawa, #61 review

Publication date : 6 February 2013

Sentaro has failed. He has a criminal record, drinks too much, and his dream of becoming a writer is just a distant memory. With only the blossoming of the cherry trees to mark the passing of time, he spends his days in a tiny confectionery shop selling dorayaki, a type of pancake filled with sweet bean paste.

But everything is about to change.

Into his life comes Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a troubled past. Tokue makes the best sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She begins to teach him her craft, but as their friendship flourishes, social pressures become impossible to escape and Tokue’s dark secret is revealed,
with devastating consequences.

Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship. Translated into English for the first time, Durian Sukegawa’s beautiful prose is capturing hearts all over the world.

This is a Japanese tale of an ex envict who has no motivation in life and sweet tooth. Sentaro coincidentally runs a dorayaki pancake confectionery shop with very little motivation for changes and improvement. He has no plans or advancements towards his lifestyle until the fateful day he meets in old woman with mysterious hands and a heart of sweetness to counter a sweet azuki pancake. Tokue is an old lady that appeared out of thin air looking for a job at the confectionary shop. She suffered from a sickness that left her hands disfigured. However, it does not affect the quality the product she has come to make at the dorayaki shop. The sweet bean paste she makes is the best Sentaro has ever tasted in his life. Then comes Wakana, one of the school girls who like to buy dorayaki after school. Her heart goes out to Tokue in a heartfelt way that forms an irreplaceable bond between the two.

Reading this book is like magic for a chef and any sweet tooth lover. The writing is celestial. I was suck into the charming little shop by the cherry blossoms with pink petals falling from the branches under the setting sun. It was such a lovely adventure to go through the characters’ journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to give Japanese translated books a try, the writing in this genere is most often poetic and soul-touching. It can easily be read in a sitting. “Sweet Bean Paste” also talks about how fear, lack of education and ignorance can lead to the downfall of a society through discrimination.

By elysianbooksish

The Bookish Faerie who loves to read and write, and bake too

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