Book Review: Lonely Castle in the Mirror
Lonely Castle in the Mirror is that rare entity – a magical realism novel for both the young and grown ups. Set in Tokyo, it is a book about seven teenagers who have stopped going to school. Each one has their own reason for doing so, each one feels the pull to disconnect from the morass of the mainstream.
They wake one day to find their bedroom mirrors emitting an enchanting light and soon find themselves on the grounds of a marvellous castle. There, they meet an authoritative young woman who has command of the castle and goes by the moniker ‘Wolf Queen’. She will change the course of their lives forever.
This novel must be appreciated for being so cleverly engineered. The author, Mizuki Tsujimura, has been praised in her native Japan for her storytelling and for deftly tackling the issues that plague Japanese teen society.
Tsujimura’s narrative feels as familiar as a fairytale and as wise as a fable. It captures the experiences of side-tracked teens with a gratifying lightness of touch.
There are powerful lessons about empathy and human connection in its pages. Against the backdrop of an alluring fantasy-scape, it presents a comforting world within a world.
There is a comforting transcendence to the narrative with its port-hole mirrors and mysterious castle. This transcendence offers a refuge not only to the castaway protagonists of the novel but, indeed, to its readers.
Quotes from Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura
On the Impetus to Change:
“It was like a Disney Cinderella castle, ripped from some fantasy.
This has got to be a dream, she thought.
She continued crawling towards the shining mirror, when she felt the little wolf girl begin to pound her with her fists. ‘What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to know where you are? You could be on the brink of an adventure, and you’re telling me you really don’t care? Use your imagination for once in your life!”
“Kokoro and the others who’d come from her elementary school were more diffident. It felt as if Miori and her group owned the place, and Kokoro and her circle were merely tenants. Kokoto didn’t understand why things turned out this way, but that’s how it was from the very beginning. They were all the same age, but it was as if Miori and the other girls in her group held all the power in their class”
“These girls didn’t wreck anything or physically hurt her.
But Kokoro’s experience of the incident went way beyond that; it was something far more decisive and intense. What if she went to school, again, defenceless?
Would she be able to protect herself?
The only place she could now go to freely from her bedroom was the castle.
If I’m in the castle, she started to think, then I’ll be safe.”
On One’s Own World:
“‘Listen up’, he said, facing them all. ‘The world we live in – the world beyond the seven mirrors in the foyer – seems the same for all of us, but it isn’t. Even if there’s a Yukishina No. 5 Junior High in Miami, in Tokyo City, Japan, in all our worlds, the people there and the details all deviate slightly from each other. All seven of us are living in our own individual worlds.’”
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