Written By: Keiichiro Hirano
Translated By: Juliet Winters Carpenter
Published By: Amazon Crossing
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
Last year, I was looking for something different to read. Happily, Amazon was offering a bunch of books for free that I might want to check out. They were by authors I had never heard of and varied in topic. Score! One of those novels was At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano.
World-renowned classical guitarist Satoshi Makino was not looking for love. In fact, he never expected to find it. So in tune was he with his musical world, that Satoshi was not really looking forward to settling down and starting a family. Then, Satoshi met Yoko Komine, a respected journalist who was attending his Tokyo concert. As luck would have it, a mutual friend would invite Yoko to meet Satoshi and an amazing thing would take place. The two would spend all evening into the morning discussing their views of the world, amongst other things. When the night was over, they went their separate ways, but their thoughts lingered over that night.
Yoko certainly wasn’t looking for love – she thought she had already found it and was engaged to marry a terrific man with a job in finance that would provide a much stable life than the one she was leading. Yet, as she headed back towards her journalist job, covering the military action in Afghanistan, Yoko couldn’t seem to stop thinking of Satoshi. Listening to his music during her downtime made her extremely happy and capable of forgetting the horrors she covered daily. They continue to keep in touch, neither of them vocalizing their love for one another, perhaps not even realizing they were in love to begin with.
Eventually, they would finally be brought together. Realizing how they feel for one another, they begin making plans. But both are haunted by recent experiences that hamper their happiness at beginning a life together. And when a missed meeting ends up in a misunderstanding orchestrated by Satoshi’s secret admirer, is it possible that two people destined to be together will be forever kept apart?
When I began reading this novel, I was surprised and a bit put off by the flowery writing style of Kelichiro Hirano, as interpreted by Juliet Winters Carpenter. I suppose I shouldn’t have been – many Japanese writers have a flowery and descriptive writing style, but I was not expecting this from a romance novel. I was also more than a little perturbed by the ending. In fact, I put off reviewing this book after I read it, because I wasn’t quite sure how to take some of the content. Then, I put the book aside, sat down and truly started to think about what I had just read. I analyzed what the author was trying to convey to the audience and I realized something: I was looking at this book all wrong.
The fact of the matter is that At the End of the Matinee was not simply a romance novel. This was a philosopher’s romance novel with a message. The novel invited the reader to debate with oneself the validity of love, a soulmate and whether events can conspire to keep one from actually being with their soulmate and still inspire happiness. The open ending of this novel forces the reader to think about whether Satoshi and Yoko are truly soulmates and whether there is such a thing as destiny. It forces one to think about the repercussions of love and those of love unrequited. Can love be the object of one’s pain? Shouldn’t love bring about one’s happiness? All of these questions come to mind after putting the book down.
In short, if you are looking for that easy-to-read straight forward romance novel, At the End of the Matinee is not what you are looking for. But if you are looking for a romance novel that challenges you to think about all aspects of love – its best and worst attributes – then At the End of the Matinee is just what the doctor ordered. My initial reaction after putting the book down was, “What did I just read?” My thoughts after really analyzing what I read: “Wow, Kelichiro Hirnao is a genious!”