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Summary

On a hot summer’s day in a poor suburb of Tokyo we meet three women: 30-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter, Midoriko. Makiko, an ageing hostess despairing the loss of her looks, has travelled to Tokyo in search of breast-enhancement surgery. She's accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently stopped speaking, finding herself unable to deal with her own changing body and her mother’s self-obsession. Her silence dominates Natsu’s rundown apartment, providing a catalyst for each woman to grapple with their own anxieties and their relationships with one another. 

Ten years later, we meet Natsu again. She is now a writer and finds herself on a journey back to her native city, returning to memories of that summer and her family’s past as she faces her own uncertain future. 

In Breasts and Eggs Mieko Kawakami paints a radical and intimate portrait of contemporary working-class womanhood in Japan, recounting the heartbreaking journeys of three women in a society where the odds are stacked against them. This is an unforgettable full-length English-language debut from a major new international talent. 

©2020 Mieko Kawakami (P)2020 W F Howes

Critic reviews

"Breathtaking." (Haruki Murakami, international best-selling author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle)

What listeners say about Breasts and Eggs

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating read

This is a fascinating read. It explores the role of women in Japanese society and bodily autonomy, and has some really thought provoking (or disturbing, depending on your anxiety levels) reflections on life and death and the ethics of having children. The writing is excellent and really brings the characters to life. Some of it is (in the second part of especially) is darkly funny, excruciatingly so at points. I found it a little over long and slow paced but I think that's because I listened to the audiobook, I think it may be better to read in print.

7 people found this helpful

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A Masterpiece...

I loved every single moment of this book. Wonderfully translated and narrated - a poetic journey of a young woman making her way through life. I look forward to revisiting these books again one day.

5 people found this helpful

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Poor read despite intelligent writing

At first I liked the writing. It had a sharp logic and a clear perspective on the struggling lives it depicted. The discussions about breasts and eggs were interesting at first. But soon it deterioriated into a "novel with a point". It would have made a good article in a newspaper about the problems of body image and associated exploitation. As a novel, it is simply tedious.

1 person found this helpful

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  • J
  • 16-03-21

A good book but not great

Just finished listening to this “Breasts and Eggs” by Meiko Kawakami
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it when I started listening to it, it had great reviews and so I persevered with it. It slowly tells a story of this one woman Natsu who lives in Tokyo, her relationship with her family, friends and also her desire to have a baby without having a partner. At times she becomes almost overwhelmed with this, she is very indecisive, not a lot happens, yet the book keeps slowly moving you forward.
I don’t think I can say this is a must read, neither would I say avoid it at all costs. I am glad I finished it and there was an upbeat ending and I am really glad I’d read it.

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Hardwork

Struggled to finished.
Wouldn't have missed anything if I'd given up halfway through like i should have.

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New to Kawakami

This is my first time reading Kawakami, I really enjoyed the the very stark style. I'll read more.

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  • Nature Rise
  • 08-06-21

Nice narration and unique story

Strong moments throughout the novel mixed with differing philosophical viewpoints from a humane POV. Not one genre

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  • Saranit Vongkiatkajorn
  • 02-02-21

Okay book, sub-par narration

I thought the book was okay, but it is hard to tell with a translated book how the language was in the original Japanese. If you like books with lots of talking and not much happening, then you'll like this book. The main reason I didn't enjoy the work overall was because we spend so much time getting to know the main character, her sister, her daughter, and their history. After all that character building, they hardly appeared at all in the second, much longer half of the book. This was a shame as I'd grown kind of fond of the dynamic between those 3 characters.

The other main reason for the low score was due to the fact that the conversation between the women were interesting in terms of depth of emotion and characterization; however, the interactions between the main character and the male characters (there were basically no male characters in the first part of the book except in memory) were generally one sided and shallow. This is exacerbated by the narration. It's as if the narrator has one voice for any male character, and he sounds like a young stoner despite massive differences in character personality and emotional content. (It was hard to picture/hear the 'love interest' and the creepy, wart sperm blogger sounding exactly the same) I don't know if this is intentional or not as the female characters on the other hand did sound pretty distinctive. This was good for me as some Japanese names sounded quite close to me initially.

Overall, the second part was much longer and more insightful (a lot more reflection and reaction on the part of the usually passive main character) than the first. Given that these were two stories written years apart, it's likely that the writer grew in craft over time. The first story contained a lot of information about breast augmentation (perhaps too much in terms of petty details) while the second was about loneliness and artificial insemination (Breasts & Eggs).

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  • Grace
  • 21-11-20

great writing

I loved it overall. Nevertheless it gives quite one-dimensional vision of the main character inner life. Missed opportunity there.