I don’t know what I just read. It was weird.
The Diving Pool is three novellas by Yoko Ogawa: The Diving Pool, Pregnancy Diary, and Dormitory.
The Diving Pool is a story I found difficult to read. In it, fifteen year old Aya obsesses over a boy living in the orphanage her parents run. The boy is a diver and she spends her time secretly watching him dive. The rest of her time is spent tormenting a one year old in her care. Both these activities make her feel something. While she takes pleasure in hurting the child, she is anxious to keep it hidden from her crush. It’s pretty twisted. I did not enjoy this one. At all.
Pregnancy Diary is about a different kind of obsession. Another young woman watches her sister’s pregnancy with a strange obsessiveness, and keeps a cold, clinical journal of her gestation. She begins conducting experiments without her sister’s knowledge.
In a departure from the depravity of the women in the last two stories, the heroine in Dormitory is at least a caring person. After her young cousin asks for the phone number of a dormitory she stayed in when she was in university, she helps him get a room there. She becomes concerned when it seems that he’s the only resident living there, and even more worried when he’s never there when she comes to visit.
I absolutely loved Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, which is why I bought The Diving Pool. Revenge is a series of connected stories, many of them about Revenge. The stories in The Diving Pool are even darker. I tried to find a connection and to me it’s about what people keep hidden, from others or themselves.
In The Diving Pool, Aya tries to keep this sinister side of herself from the quintessential boy next door. It’s not that she’s ashamed of herself. She doesn’t appear to have those feelings, but fears his rejection if he knew her secret.
The sister in Pregnancy Diary seems to be hiding her resentments in this clinical evaluation of her sister’s pregnancy. The older sister is married to a nice, but boring, man. The younger sister lives with them. Her job is a sample lady at a grocery store. She doesn’t have anything else going on. There they all are living together, while this life changing event is happening. Instead of a household of three, they will be four. I wonder how many, “When is your sister moving out?” conversations are happening behind the bedroom door.
Finally, in Dormitory the young woman is about to join her husband in Sweden once all the loose ends of their life in Japan are tied up. Is her worry for her cousin really about her own fears? Is she nostalgic for her old life just when she’s about to leave everything behind? I too thought something fishy was going on, but maybe I was just reacting to her fear. What was with the bees? Maybe that’s Japanese symbolism lost on me.
I started out not knowing what I was going to say in this review and now I’ve begun to ramble. This is what Yoko Ogawa does to you! She gets in your brain! You wonder if you’ve understood any of what you read and what it all means. Somewhere in Japan she’s stroking a white cat and whispering, “Excellent.”
The tales in The Diving Pool are twisted and strange. If that’s what you enjoy, I recommend them to you. If you ever figure out what they all mean, please share your ideas with me!