Right after coming back from our long vacation in Japan, I indulged myself in four books from Amazon about expats living there. The first I finished was In the Empire of Dreams by Dianne Highbridge.
As you can see, the reviews are very positive: "evocative, bittersweet...tenderness and beauty." I think it is hard for foreigners to write well about Japan, because their books tend to fill up with all the trivial details: paper doors, love hotels, and so on. Highbridge does pretty well here. I knew the book was mostly about women characters, but was annoyed at finding several of them swooning, with earthquake anxiety (I never felt this so acutely) or from uncaring spouses. I prefer swooning to be from lack of oxygen at 28,000 feet. The chapters are separate stories, with overlapping characters, which is clever but hard to follow. It might have been better as a big novel. There are some pretty moments, and I cared for some of the characters, but I think I will completely forget this book pretty rapidly.
There is one funny moment, at a Christmas party in a small apartment:
[ Camp gay friend, dressed as Santa, to assembled English students ] He strikes a kabuki pose. "I take you back to North Pole in my sleigh and make you slave elves!" ... Mr Komata...begins to sing. "...Treetops glisten, and children listen, to the sound of slave elves in the snow..." Is Janet hearing right?