This was my fourth Kawabata book – the other three were Thousand Cranes, Snow Country, and House of the Sleeping Beauties. As a writer, he snuck up on me. I enjoyed Thousand Cranes, but I didn’t necessarily intend to read a lot of his work. Over the years I’ve purchased his books when I see them at used bookstores, and I’ve ended up reading one every winter. His writing is perfect for winter. It is quiet and understated and simple. Many of his stories take place in winter, and those that take place over longer periods often include descriptive passages about the seasons.
The Sound of the Mountain is the longest book of his that I’ve read, and it felt like the most complete in terms of the depth of its characters and its story. At its most basic level, it is a story about a dysfunctional family and its quiet elderly patriarch, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the sorrow of getting older, the agony of determining your legacy, and the realization that you cannot be responsible for the choices of others.