Author: Natsuo Kirino, 2013. Translated from the Japanese by Rebecca Copeland.
Genre: World Myth. Japan
Other Details: Hardback. 309 pages.
My name is Namima... I was barely sixteen when I died. Now I make my home among the dead, here in this realm of darkness . . . - opening of The Goddess Chronicle.
In a remote island community two sisters are born into a family that has for many generations supplied the island with its spiritual leader: the Oracle. At the age of six Kamikuu is chosen to take the place of her grandmother, the current Oracle and enters into seclusion to undertake the long training. Her younger sister, the headstrong Namima, is assigned the daily task of delivering a basket of food for the Oracle and her apprentice. When her grandmother dies, Kamikuu becomes the new Oracle and Namima is shocked to discover that her destiny is also to serve the gods but as the Priestess to the Goddess of Death and Darkness, a lonely and celibate existence. Yet Namima has already experienced a forbidden first love and its consequences leads her to the Underworld where she becomes the servant of the vengeful Goddess Izanami.
This novel was a exquisite retelling of the Japanese creation myth with focus upon the tale of Izanami and Izanagi. Despite my interest in world mythology I'm not that familiar with Japanese mythology apart from being aware that there was a female sun goddess, Amaterasu. In the course of this tale I learned that Amaterasu was one of the children of Izanagi, created after his Underworld confrontation with Izanami. One of the many strengths of the Canongate Myths series of presenting world myths penned by major authors in a highly accessible manner.
I had certainly enjoyed the dark crime thrillers by Natsuo Kirino that have been translated to date and while very different, set in a world somehow out of time, this proved as hypnotic as her other works. The writing itself is quite formal and once I had begun I found myself unable to stop reading. The novel includes a list of sources.
Reading this has inspired me to seek out more in the Canongate Myth series.