This is the only book by Natsume Soseki on the list and I hadn’t previously heard of him, which is a shame, but it was a good read.
Kokoro (which apparently means ‘heart’ or ‘the heart of things’ or ‘feelings’ – I just realised that the book didn’t make the title clear so looked it up – but it is fitting) is split into two parts: the first narrated by a university student in Tokyo, as he recounts his friendship with an older man who he refers to as Sensei. At the beginning of the novel, the narrator befriends Sensei after observing him at a resort (which I imagine is not meant to recall the same images as the word resort does to a prospective 21st century holiday maker in the UK) when he seem him in the company of a Westerner going for a swim. This first observation is, I suppose, somewhat ironic, as for the rest of the novel Sensei is portrayed as solitary and retiring – there are a few times when he meets with friends (other than the narrator) but for the most part he seems to actively shun the rest of the world. The narrator shows a lot of respect for Sensei and holds him in high esteem (perhaps partly because of his mysterious retiring from the world and partly because he gives the impression of being extremely learned), contrasting Sensei (unfairly, I think) with his own father. The second part of the novel takes the form of a letter from Sensei to the narrator, in which he finally explains the reason behind his seclusion.
I enjoyed the book – it was easy to read which I think caused me to get through it in a couple of days – although it wasn’t the most gripping novel, the way it was written did make me want to keep on reading in some places more than the plot itself. At one point the narrator did say he wasn’t going to reveal what had happened to Sensei to make him like that (I think he just meant he wasn’t going to reveal it at that moment – rather than at all) and I was slightly disheartened and wondered what the rest of the book could be about if that was the case, but as I previously mentioned that wasn’t true – for anyone who might be tempted to misread that sentence in the same way I did !