The Makioka Sisters

Average Rating: 2 stars out of 5.
The Makioka Sisters
In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. The story of these women, the Makioka sisters, forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family--and an entire society--sliding into the abyss of modernity. Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family's exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. The resulting novel is filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life, capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonists.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 1995
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed
ISBN: 0679761640
Branch Call Number: FICTION TANIZAKI 1995
Characteristics: 530 p. ;,21 cm
Additional Contributors: Seidensticker, Edward 1921-2007


From Library Staff

Back in the day the name “Makioka” used to mean something - class, manners, and riches. Fast forward to the ‘40s, the Makiokas are practically grovelling as they struggle to marry off their youngest (and aging) daughters. Anyone who has enjoyed Anna Karenina would appreciate reading about how the... Read More »

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Oct 12, 2014
  • gendeg rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I expected a messy, sprawling family saga but instead got a hyper-real, documentary look at various traditions and family practices. The Makioka Sisters details the decline of Japanese society and its struggles with modernization through the banal lives of these siblings. It's an apt dramatic lens, and I was excited to immerse myself in this family's story. But frustratingly no grand events or central conflicts take place. Much of the plot hinges on the family trying to find a husband for one of the unmarried sisters and dealing with the youngest sibling who is dating around and trampling all over social codes. Soap opera material, right? Yet Tanizaki steps nobly around that gutter storytelling. Still, I wished he did deal more viscerally and dramatically with those aspects, just to shake things up a bit. Also, even though the book takes place before WWII, the drumbeat of impending war doesn't enter into the characters' lives in any significant way, which I found rather strange. Lost opportunity?

I admire Tanizaki's writing, which is fluid and eloquent and psychologically penetrating in parts. What really shines in this book is how it evokes Japanese life with such a fine-tooth comb. The writing is strewn with rich period details. But the overall effect of this book is ho-hum.


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