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Sheard, Sarah.

Toronto, Coach House Press. c1985. 125pp, paper, $6.95, ISBN 0-88910-277-5.

Reviewed by Sharon A. McLennan McCue

Volume 14 Number 3
1986 May

Sarah Sheard has published numerous short stories, but this is her first novel. Almost Japanese is an honourable introduction to the ranks of Can Lit. The story centres on the impact that a Japanese conductor has on the life of a teenage girl who lives next door. Her infatuation with him leaves her with a thirst for knowledge of the Japanese culture.The story, which is written in first-person, diary-style entries, is broken into two parts. The first part is concerned with those years when Akira Isutsuma lives next door to Emma. During this time, the charismatic conductor becomes, first, an object of awe, and then a friend whose thoughts and habits have a more powerful effect on the young woman than he intends, or even knows.

The second part of the story is about the young woman's voyage to Japan in later years. The supposed purpose of this trip is to see Akira perform in his homeland. But as the sights and smells of Japan are experienced, Emma realizes that her beloved Akira was just a symbol of her fascination with the exquisite delicacy of the Japanese culture. However, she had to see him, in the flesh, one more time, so that she could put her feelings in perspective.

The format of this book, with its easy-to-read print surrounded by plenty of white paper, visually enhances the author's poetic style. Almost Japanese should be a part of all Canadian fiction collections, but it would be welcomed in any library, where the readers' tastes will be tantalized by this exotic literary condiment.

Sharon A. McLennan McCue, Chisasibi, James Bay, Que.
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