Breast and Eggs by Meiko Kawakami

The “Breast and Eggs” book is divided into two parts with different translators which tell about the essence of womanhood. The main character, Natsuko, is a writer from Osaka but lives in Tokyo. The story of Natsuko and the people around her about fertility, menstruation, beauty standards, and gender norms. It also tells about how they strive against poverty in Japan.

Book One tells about Natsuko’s older sister, Makiko, who is obsessed with a breast implant, and Midoriko, Makiko’s daughter, who doesn’t talk to her mother for a long time. It’s also told through Midoriko’s journal, how she experienced puberty and her first menstruation. Natsuko’s presence in Book One isn’t highlighted much, but I like the mother-daughter intricate relationship between Makiko and Midoriko, especially the climax part.

Beauty meant that you were good. And being good meant being happy. Happiness can be defined all kinds of ways, but human beings, consciously or unconsciously, are always pulling for their own version of happiness.

Natsuko’s story is then thoroughly discussed in the second book with a different time setting. The issues are more complex. Natsuko badly wanted to have a child but she said that having sex makes her “want to die”. So, she observed another option to have a child by a sperm donor. In this second book, a lot of new characters appear in Natsuko’s life, one of which is Aizawa.

“Family matters. It matters more than anything. Children need to be raised by real families, in real homes, in an atmosphere full of love and responsibility. Every child brought into this world, by artificial insemination or any other means, is an example of the gift of life, and I believe their life deserves to be cherished.”

“People are willing to accept pain and suffering of others, limitless amounts of it, as long as it helps them keep believing in whatever it is they want to believe. Love, meaning, doesn’t matter.”

I personally like Book One more than Book Two. There’s an evident development in the family dynamic between Natsuko, Makiko, and Midoriko. And I feel like their chemistry is clearly implied in Book One. However, Book Two is tedious even though more complex issues are discussed here. Too many unnecessary parts that could have been shortened.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The way Meiko Kawakami brings up these women’s issues should be appreciated. But, for me, the second book could’ve been written better.

Rate: 3.5/5