Yoko Ogawa is a challenging author. I was first introduced to Ogawa’s work last year through Revenge, her book of “Eleven Dark Tales.” I was instantly enamored. Just as in Revenge, The Diving Pool is a set of weirdly creepy stories that prod at the darkest corners of suburban life and social roles and always come up with something unexpected.
The Diving Pool is made of three novellas, which, unlike Revenge, are not obviously related. However, the stories don’t feel out of place sandwiched next to each other in this book. There is no good way for me to try to describe what goes on in an Ogawa work—each time I try I know that I am not doing justice to the author. So, let me say this: Ogawa is challenging for her unexpectedness and for the harsh light she shines on the less flattering aspects of human character, but she is at least equally rewarding.
I believe that Ogawa’s three greatest strengths are her immersive descriptions, her creativity in examining the psyche, and the way that she uses both of these as tools to craft beautiful stories that feel both final and unresolved. Her stories are not scary in the typical sense. Rather, they offer a reality that feels intimately familiar until closer examination shows seams that are beginning to rip under the weight of the unexpectedly sinister. Ogawa is an author for anyone who is open to the dark mysteries of those we think we know.
Yoko Ogawa is not for everyone. Her stories are not uplifting, and often they seem to simply end without typical resolution. However, that is part of why I love her. I believe that very few authors have the ability to craft a story as well as Ogawa does, and even fewer take this ability and use it to examine the darker parts of human tendencies. I do whole-heartedly recommend both The Diving Pool and Revenge, but with the warning that you, dear reader, will find very little to warm your heart or restore your faith within these pages.