As I mentioned in my previous post, I was approached, for the first time, to participate in an advance review. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider a review request but after taking some time to read about the author, Shusaku Endo, and the books, I felt both of these titles were something that I would be interested in reading. This post details my thoughts on When I Whistle.
When I Whistle, by Shusaku Endo, is published by International Publishing Group and distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing here at home in the good ole USA.
Here’s a quick synopsis of what the book is about:
One of Endo’s most unusual and powerful novels, When I Whistle is set largely in a modern hospital. On a commercial visit, a jaded businessman has a chance encounter that reminds him of his best friend at school, and memories are stirred of a former love interest, Aiko. His doctor son is contemptuous of the outmoded values of his father’s world and ruthless in pursuit of success at the hospital. The story moves towards a terrible climax when Aiko, now middle-aged and suffering from cancer, is admitted to the hospital, and Ozu’s son chooses to lead the way in experimenting on her with dangerous drugs.
At times romantic and elegiac, When I Whistle is a shocking exposé of the war between new and traditional values in Japan.
My first thoughts when I finished this book were WOW. I couldn’t believe how much I really enjoyed reading When I Whistle. From the very beginning of the book, I was completely interested in Ozu and Flatfish and really cared about how their futures fared. Perhaps part of my immediate attachment dealt with the fact that I could relate to their positions in school as not being the most popular people in school. I, also, wasn’t very popular in high school, but these two didn’t really let it get to them very much.
You could very early on see the characteristics of traditional Japanese values in this book exhibited by both Flatfish and Ozu. I was really touched by the kindness that Aiko exhibited to Flatfish very early on in the book. I was also touched with how this one-act of kindness, drove Flatfish to be a better person overall. It was simply amazing to me how that one-act dramatically changed the trajectory of his life.
It also demonstrated to me just how much one person can have an effect on someone’s life. Even though Ozu didn’t get to spend his adult life being friends with Flatfish, just his interaction with him, and with Aiko, shaped his life in such a way to be a kind person to everyone and treat everyone like they matter. And not use them to improve your life situation, whether it be personally, or professionally. Unlike Ozu’s son Eiichi, whom I didn’t really care for much at all. He had a tendency to use people in order to advance his career. He used women, and his colleagues in his quest to get ahead.
With the way Endo wrote the novel, one chapter told the story of Ozu, Flatfish, and Aiko, and how much traditional values were responsible for how people acted and who they were, and then one in the present day with how people treated one another in the present day. This writing style definitely allowed for me to easily compare traditional values to modern-day values, and it was a comparison that definitely wasn’t lost on me.
I just couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed When I Whistle, I enjoyed it significantly more than Volcano. When I Whistle by itself has made me a big fan of Endo, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his works going forward in the future.