Schoolgirl (Joseito, ?) by Japanese novelist and a master storyteller Osamu Dazai, is a short fictional story which kicked off the authors career. The 1933 book, being reissued in a new translation, is centered on a day in the life of a teenage girl, on the verge of becoming a woman. She is dealing with a depressed mom, coping with the recent death of her dad, school, and the other problems girls like her deal with on a daily basis.
While her inner turmoil is boiling, she keeps a cool facade when it comes to portraying what she feels. Sometimes hypocritical, sometimes sad but interesting.
Schoolgirl is a playful book, which is seemingly simple but is more than it seems on the surface. As I begun reading my first impression was “what the hell is this?” But as I read further along I realized that the book is much deeper than the banal musings of a teenage girl.
The narrator contradicts herself left and right and by doing so turns herself inside out for the benefit of the reader. The reader is privy to the internal turmoil which boils underneath her skin and the demeanor which she displays to the outside world.
Stream-of-consciousness books can go either way for me. Some of them are annoying or seem more like a long tirade. However, done right, as it is in this instance, they can be brilliant.
This girl, stuck at an age where she is no longer a girl, but not yet a woman, is an interesting age for authors, and hellish for young adults and their parents. There are many books, especially since the mid-twentieth century (Catcher in the Rye, A Clockwork Orange, etc.) which touch on this subject. This book is not in the scope of others, as the story is more conceptual but somehow it works.
While I did enjoy Schoolgirl, I wish I would have read some of Mr. Dazai’s other works beforehand. It is a good story, an excellent exercise in writing, but I don’t know if I would have finished it if it would have been longer.