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Gina in the Floating World, by Belle Brett.

July 1, 2018

Gina in the Floating World
Gina in the Floating World, by Belle Brett.  She Writes Press, 2018.


4 stars

The story of a young midwestern, woman adrift in Tokyo learning how to survive in an unfamiliar culture.

Belle Brette holds a Doctorate of Education in Human Development from Harvard.  She has taught and held other educational jobs as well as headed her own research consulting firm.  She now lives in Massachusetts and defines herself as a writer and an artist. She relates that she likes travel and experiencing new and varied beginnings. This is her first novel to be published and on that is built on the six months she spent in Japan working as a bar waitress when she was in her twenties.

Gina came to Japan at the suggestion of her boyfriend to do an internship with a bank and strengthen her application to study international business.  But when she arrived the boyfriend is gone, the internship didn’t pay, and she was clueless about how to survive.  On the advice of strangers she agreed to work as a “hostess” in a bar in return for a little pay and a room upstairs where she could live. She was quickly immersed in what the Japanese call the “floating world,” traditionally a space to let go, put down their identities and responsibilities, and seek pleasure above all else.  Working and living in this space, Gina  never intended to be a prostitute, but had no reason to refuse the money men gave her for the pleasure of her company at a dinner or for more private sexual involvement. Gradually she became more tolerant and open to risks and to joy.  One of the men attracted to her was a successful, middle-aged man who wanted, among other things to teach her Zen.  Absorbing Zen practices helps Gina become both more fluid and more centered, but she distrusts her teacher when he uses Zen quotations to avoid taking responsibility for how he deliberately hurts her.  In the end, she becomes a more grounded person, more capable of take care of herself and be in relationships that don’t swallow her.

Brette has written a wise and enjoyable book; a pleasure to read as well as a reordering of readers’ expectations.  The plot is smooth and fast; the characters interesting if often strange. In real sense this is an unconventional “coming of age” story that does not focus primarily on sexuality.

I hope that this book is widely read.

She Writes Press which published this book is an innovative institution where authors are engaged in bringing the book and its publicity into the world.  I have read and appreciated several of their books and intent to read more.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2018 9:42 am

    I wasn’t sure initially whether this was fiction or non fiction. But now I’m thinking its the former?

  2. July 2, 2018 5:32 pm

    Sorry to be unclear. Yes, it is fiction, informed by the author’s time in a similar job in Japan.

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