Book Review: “Where The Wild Ladies Are” by Aoko Matsuda

Happy May, everyone! I hope that all of you had a good April, and that May is just as good or even better!

Cover of the book "Where The Wild Ladies Are" by Aoko Matsuda.
Cover of the book “Where The Wild Ladies Are” by Aoko Matsuda.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Where The Wild Ladies Are” by Aoko Matsuda! This is a short story collection based off Japanese folktales. It’s been a while since I read and reviewed a short story collection, so I’m excited to read this one. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“A busybody aunt who disapproves of hair removal; a pair of door-to-door saleswomen hawking portable lanterns; a cheerful lover who visits every night to take a luxurious bath; a silent house-caller who babysits and cleans while a single mother is out working. Where the Wild Ladies Are is populated by these and many other spirited women—who also happen to be ghosts. This is a realm in which jealousy, stubbornness, and other excessive “feminine” passions are not to be feared or suppressed, but rather cultivated; and, chances are, a man named Mr. Tei will notice your talents and recruit you, dead or alive (preferably dead), to join his mysterious company.

In this witty and exuberant collection of linked stories, Aoko Matsuda takes the rich, millenia-old tradition of Japanese folktales—shapeshifting wives and foxes, magical trees and wells—and wholly reinvents them, presenting a world in which humans are consoled, guided, challenged, and transformed by the only sometimes visible forces that surround them.”

Character Development: 2 out of 5 stars

Plot Development: 2 out of 5 stars

I’m not familiar with most of the Japanese folktales that these short stories refer to. This collection is more enjoyable if you know what these folktales are before reading this collection. However, the author did have a section at the back of the book called “Inspiration for the Stories” to see which tale inspired which short story, which is convenient.

Given that this collection is a short story collection, it’s harder for me to judge compared to, say, a full novel because I have to consider all of the individual stories. However, most of the short stories didn’t pique my interest overall. This is due to the characters lacking development, and/or a lack of conflict in the short stories overall. I’d argue that most of the stories felt more like a series of vignettes. The stories contained scenes and events happening in them, but there were no overarching storylines to put all of the scenes together that felt like actual stories.

Despite the lack of character development and conflict in majority of the stories, “Quite A Catch” was one of my favourite stories out of the whole collection. It’s also one of the stories that resembled the story it was based off the closest. The characters involved in “Quite A Catch” were the most interesting and unique. This story felt more like a cohesive story out of all the stories instead of a series of vignettes.

Overall, I’m rating this short story collection 2 out of 5 stars!

This collection would be more enjoyable to read if the reader had prior experience and knowledge of the Japanese folktales the stories are based off.


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