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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda

Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riju Onda, Translated by Alison Watts

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published in Japan 2007; in US 2022 ; 204 pages

First Sentence: "This, I guess you could say, is the story of a photo. Sure, it's also the mystery surrounding the death of a certain man, and a mountain tale as well. Plus there's the relationship aspect: the break-up of a couple."


A simple plot in a short book. A couple is breaking up after years together. The book takes place over the course of their last night together in the apartment. Everything has been moved out; they're still there to have a final talk about an event that happened a year ago and effectively was the beginning of the end of their relationship.

A man died. They each think the other person killed the man.

The story is in first person perspectives in alternating chapters as we learn what happened a year ago. Or do we? It's a very clever construct as the couple reminisce about what happened on their hike a year ago and gradually their suspicions about each other come out as well as all sorts of other surprise realizations. That's about all I can say without giving away some key spoilers.

"If I were younger, I might have been able to let the emotions of the moment carry me along, and throw everything away. Or I might have been capable of ending our relationship with a single stroke and leaving on the spot. But the older one gets, the harder it is to do that kind of thing. All manner of compromises and calculations must be taken into account, and above all the fear of loneliness is real. ... Adult wisdom is the wisdom to protect your heart."


This is a very readable translation and the story is very creative and not at all what I expected. Hints are dropped then explained, wonderings turn into realizations that turn into solutions.

I like being able to talk to my husband when I'm caught up in a story and just want to talk about because I know he won't read the book, so I can share every twist and spoiler. And this story has plenty. I'd love for you to read it so we can talk about it. Has anyone read this little gem?

Challenges tagged (follow my progress in the Challenge tab at the top of the page)

Cloak & Dagger: 3/36

Translated: 1/9

Mt TBR (virtual): 1/24

Literary Escapes: 2/51 + 2 bonus countries

Library Love: 2/70

COYER-1st semester: 5

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