Friday, August 31, 2012

La Quinta Camera - The Fifth Room

by Natsume Ono, 188 pages

The title of this collection of vignettes refers to the succession of tenants in the fifth room of an apartment otherwise shared by four colorful, unmarried guys from different walks of life (the mature apartment owner, who runs the coffee bar downstairs; the gaudily-dressed comics artist; the ragamuffin busker; and the rarely-awake truck driver).  Mostly international students learning Italian at the local language school, each new tenant of the extra room shares his or her culture and creativity with the fellas, who in turn help him or her to feel at home and adjust to life in a new country.  Everybody learns to be flexible as they experience the many changes life throws at them.  And though the apartment's occupants may only be passing through, some for longer than others, the connections they build and the bonds they form in their time together will stay with them always.

There's almost a touch of magical realism to this quiet, amusing, slice-of-life story, as Ono seems to have a thing for (mostly) happy coincidence.  For instance, the first story's new resident manages to bump into all four of her new roommates before she even knocks on the apartment door.  But in this quirky, sentimental vision of Bohemian Rome, that works just fine.  :)

This collection marks the author's professional debut, so it's interesting to see how her style and writing have changed over the years.

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