A multifaceted gem
This beautiful story reminds me of Hiromi Kawakawi,s "Strange Weather in Tokyo" and, to a lesser extent, Kazuo Ishiguro's "The Remains of the Day". All three explore human emotions and yet, in one sense, seem slightly aloof from them.
This complex and multi-layered novel is ostensibly about creating a new (Japanese) dictionary, called "The Great Passage" - the processes involved and what participation in the project means to the dictionary editorial department at Gembu books. It probably helps to have a love of words and language yourself, since you will see quite a few dictionary entries along the way, but the dictionary project, with its highs and lows, with the social interactions which it imposes on those trying to bring it to fruition (either from choice or a chance transfer to the team), the changing role of the various members of the department as they grow older, is really a metaphor for an individual's 'great passage' through life. It is an absorbing and, at times, moving experience for the reader to become familiar and comfortable with the main characters as they develop as personally and professionally, taking more - or less responsibility as they become older. It is a book filled with hope, for the project, for the department and its members, for love and even for life itself. The book has another theme, too, which becomes ever more apparent as the book nears its conclusion and perhaps not a surprising one for a novel set in a dictionary editorial department - that of communication and miscommunication, of the power of words and also of their inadequacies.
The cover is worth a mention: once you have read the book, you will see how clever and appropriate it is!