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A global fiction in Kunal Basu’s The Japanes...

A global fiction in Kunal Basu’s The Japanese Wife

book review of the japanese wife

A man dreams of his previous birth where he designed the gorgeous Taj Mahal, a foreign architect called upon just to create that symbol of love. An American woman falls in love with an Indian man in Delhi, a shared love for music creating something exquisite and intimate. These and many more stories are a part of this masterful collection by Kunal Basu, titled The Japanese Wife.

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Why Should You Read The Japanese Wife?

Words bring places to life, and why just places? The stories in The Japanese Wife bring the different pasts and presents together, blurring the lines between the real and the fictional, the materialistic and the metaphorical. Dreams manifest themselves in the real world and history seeps into the present. In one story, a man travels from one site to the other, each playing out some landmark moment in the history of the Soviet Union. Revolutions being planned, passions flying around, the stories transport you to different places in time and space.


“He had smelled her strong musk – the smell of love – her love bite snapping her spine in two.”

Best quotes from The Japanese Wife by Kunal Basu

The backdrop for most stories is simple with a cast of characters just like you and me, and it is in that ordinariness that Basu finds the unordinary. Nationalities, cultural differences cease to matter beneath Basu’s pen, creating stories of love, conflict, and a human struggle to find one’s place in life. Be it love or ideology, memory or passion, that drives the protagonists of these stories towards their different, often open-ended, conclusions, there’s always a search for something. Something to provide meaning to life, to make it less terrible, less alone.

Meet the ecclectic cast of the stories

Short stories in The Japanese Wife

A snake-charmer follows an American professor who wishes to end his life here in India. An Indian couple is caught amidst the infamous Tiananmen Square protest in China. A priest who had a knack for onion rings has a role in a local scandal. A Russian prostitute finds her roots to be intertwined with those of revolutionaries. In Calcutta! A forest officer falls in love with a local, but love is more lethal than it’s given credit for. Such is the range of these gorgeous stories, but what remains with you by the end is the miraculousness of it all, the beauty, the magical realism, and the realistic magic.

“He saw the Chota Mimar crossing the mountains on a mule as he returned home to Persia, stopping every now and then to cast a look back at the queen’s tomb – glowing in the dark like the heart of an angel.”

Best quotes from The Japanese Wife by Kunal Basu

Final Thoughts

If you wish to read a beautifully written, well-crafted piece of literature, then this collection of stories should well satiate your appetite. Varying as much in themes as they do in terms of their protagonists, the stories share a common thread of love, humanity, and the constant human struggle against the world. 

Best Quotes

“Reaching Shonai, she crossed the muddy path over the banks, called for a rickshaw, and asked to be taken to the house of the teacher, the one with the Japanese wife.”

Best quotes from The Japanese Wife by Kunal Basu

“When the storm finally arrived, the lake blended with the moat. Twilight etched a frame around her tousled veil. A lightning flash bleached the two of them, the breeze sounding the panes like a flock of alarmed pigeons.”

Best quotes from The Japanese Wife by Kunal Basu

Final Rating: 5/5

Our Rating System

* – Don’t bother.
** – Borrow it if you must, use it as a travel companion.  
***– Make a purchase. Maybe an online purchase, or a kindle purchase. But buy it, encourage it.
**** – Go to a bookstore and buy it. Pay those extra bucks.
*****–Buy a hardback and show it off in your bookshelf! And then wait for a signed anniversary edition and buy that too.


Part-time writer, full-time chemistry student, Amritesh loves everything literature. Gift him a book if you chance upon him and he'll love you forever.

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