Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. The blurb and excerpted reviews kept referring to haiku (because he’s Japanese I guess) but this book is pure, undiluted melodrama.
A rich, sensitive, but ultimately limited man spends a final winter with his lover in a rural mountain town. They meet, say little, and slowly their relationship plays out to its inevitably tragic end.
The opening scene in which the protagonist stares at the passing landscape through a woman’s reflection in the train’s window sets the tone for what follows (and the content) beautifully and succinctly.
The long closing scene establishes a set of interlocking images that translates the human-scale tragedy of an unhappy woman’s death onto a cosmic scale: the sparks rising from a blaze mingle with the stars of the Milky Way, stars that seemed earlier to flow off of a dress, as below a women weeps for a fallen friend. And as the pathos reaches its peak, the novel ends.