The Office of Gardens and Ponds was the first book I read by Didier Decoin. I didn’t want to miss this book when I saw it because I am here to read everything about Japan. To begin with, I admired the cover design of the book. When I read the blurb I thought that I would love it. When the book was over, I realized that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I like, even though I know more about Japanese culture.

The Office of Gardens and Ponds - Didier Decoin

The Office of Gardens and Ponds begins with the death of master carp-catcher Katsuro. With his death, his village turns into a worrisome place. Because the fish were given to the Imperial City, providing several benefits to the village. To ensure these benefits continue, Katsuro’s wife, Miyuki, must take the fish to the Office of Gardens and Ponds. Miyuki agrees to carry the fish to the Imperial city because she is the only one who knows everything about fish in the village. After that, the real story begins. Aside from the things she had to endure on the way, Miyuki will see that nothing is as it seems in the city.

The Office of Gardens and Ponds could have been a great book in terms of its setting and story. Instead it made me feel like the writer wanted to write down what he knew about Japanese culture and made up the story to show his knowledge. I still think it is a unique book but definitely not for everyone.

About the book: The Office of Gardens and Ponds

For readers of Alessandro Baricco’s Silk, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat.

The village of Shimae is thrown into turmoil when master carp-catcher. Katsuro suddenly drowns in the murky waters of the Kusagawa river. Who now will carry the precious cargo of carp to the Imperial Palace and preserve the crucial patronage that everyone in the village depends upon?

Step forward Miyuki, Katsuro’s grief-struck widow and the only remaining person in the village who knows anything about carp. She alone can undertake the long, perilous journey to the Imperial Palace, balancing the heavy baskets of fish on a pole across her shoulders, and ensure her village’s future.

So Miyuki sets off. Along her way she will encounter a host of remarkable characters. From prostitutes and innkeepers, to warlords and priests with evil in mind. She will endure ambushes and disaster, for the villagers are not the only people fixated on the fate of the eight magnificent carp. 

But when she reaches the Office of Gardens and Ponds, Miyuki discovers that the trials of her journey are far from over. For in the Imperial City, nothing is quite as it seems. And beneath a veneer of refinement and ritual, there is an impenetrable barrier of politics and snobbery that Miyuki must overcome if she is to return to Shimae.

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About the author: Didier decoin

Didier Decoin is a French screenwriter and writer awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1977.

– First Sentence – 

The Office of Gardens and Ponds - Didier Decoin

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Japanese Literature – A Literary Journey

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