Cover detail of What you are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

What you are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

Back in January, I celebrated a rather large birthday and received the most wonderful present from my friends...a year of books. Each month on the 1st I open up a parcel and find a book inside. February's parcel contained a book I would not normally pick up if I'm honest. But this is the joy of a Year in Books, finding new authors, different genres and a new book to enjoy.

Read my Review of January's Choice - The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

And enjoy I most certainly did, but I'm jumping ahead here. Let's find out more about the book shall we?

The Plot

What are you Looking For?
So asks Tokyo's most enigmatic librarian. For Sayuri Komachi is able to sense exactly what each visitor to her library is searching for, and provide just the book recommendation to find it.
A restless retail assistant looks to gain new skills, a mother tries to overcome demotion at work after maternity leave, a conscientious accountant yearns to open up an antiques store, a recently retired salaryman searches for newfound purpose.
In Komachi's unique book recommendation they will find just what they need to achieve their dreams.

My Thoughts

There is something quite magical about this books which is a bestseller in Japan and already shortlisted for the Japan Booksellers' Award. In some ways it reminded me of the 1970s animated series Mr Benn which used to be on the TV around lunchtime. In this a suited Mr Benn would enter a costume shop and out of nowhere would emerge an extraordinary shopkeeper dressed in the most outlandish clothes. Mr Benn would select a costume to try on and would embark on magical adventures relating to said selected costume. Before returning to the shop's changing room, handing back the costume and promising to return the following day.

The programme threw up many questions....where was Mr Benn going to in his suit and bowler hat, Did he work? What kind of business model was the shopkeeper running where customers could try on costumes and never hire them? And most importantly, what kind of hallucinogenic drugs was Mr Benn actually on that made him think he was in space, or at the bottom of the ocean or a zoo-keeper. But TV in the 1970's was a different beast back then and it was one of possibilities.

Indeed this novel asks the question what are you looking for? Which is a question a lot of us ask ourselves at times. But it demonstrates beautifully the opportunities one can find in our beloved libraries and books.

Our librarian, Sayuri Komachi is, like Mr Benn's shopkeeper an extraordinary, magical figure. She is huge, but not fat, pale as snow with a tight bun on her head and. a beautiful kanzashi hairpin in her bun and has the ability to type at lightening speed, her fingers a blur at the keyboard. After some rather searching questions, she types information into her computer, a whirring occurs and out pops a list of recommended titles.

And it is here that the start of our journeys begin. Books relating to the issue provided by the enquirer and one recommended by Ms Komachi herself. To seal that magic Ms Komachi presents a felted gift made by her own hands.

That recommended book, usually something random, in some way enlightens our enquirers onto the next phase of their life. At times it is unexpected and not necessarily what they were dreaming of in the first place. It's a wonderful reminder that our path in life may not necessarily be what we think it is.

This is a warm hug in a book and I believe a love letter to libraries and books and possibilities. The language is sparing and beautiful and the sentiment behind it is magic. That word again. This was a lovely gift to receive and I am so pleased I read it, and enjoyed it.