Book Review – Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi

books, reviews

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m a pretty awkward person when it comes down to it. Not great at the whole social interaction thing. I feel as though I have the ability to stop a conversation dead by saying the wrong thing every time. I’m also the kind of person that would rather go along with a lie I told in order to save face. So, I kind of empathise with the main character of my final read of 2022.

I’m not sure I’d ever go as far as Shibata but I’m definitely the type of person that would lie about a medical condition to get out of something at work. Especially if that thing was part of a culture of sexism. Fair play to the protagonist of Diary of a Void for finding a way to get out of menial tasks and also take maternity leave. It’s just a shame that the only way she could think to do it was by creating a fake pregnancy.

It started as a throwaway comment when her male colleagues expected her to tidy up after them. Instead of just doing it like every other time, the 34-year-old Shibata tells them their leftover coffee and cigarette smoke trigger her morning sickness. This simple comment changes everything. Shibata gets to leave work on time and is no longer bogged down by tasks outside of her job description. She’s found the cheat code to adulthood.

Or she would have if not for the fact that everyone thinks she’s going to have a baby. Shibata decides to embrace the lie and comes up with cunning tricks to convince everyone that she is pregnant. As she gets closer to the ‘birth’, the young woman finds it harder to keep it together and the lines between fact and fiction start to blur. She not only finds ways to manufacture a baby bump but she starts to feel her imaginary child moving.

Diary of a Void is a weird and wonderful read. The prose is very matter-of-fact and to the point. It avoids any real flourishes with the language but it all works together beautifully. At its heart, this is the story of a lonely and fed-up woman who is looking for any way to get out of her daily routine. She is working too hard and not getting any satisfaction from what she does. This is also a book that analyses the traditional gender roles in society. The lie allows her to start enjoying her life and meeting new people.

Certainly, Shibata enjoys the luxury of maternity leave compared to her life as a single woman. When she is charged with caring for an unborn baby, the men in her office start to pay attention to everything she does. They no longer silently expect her to do everything for them. No more picking up their rubbish, making their coffee or handing them out treats. Now she is doing her womanly duty and keeping the species going. Diary of a Void explores the fact that to so many people, the essence of being a woman is still just to have babies. You can’t help but applaud the young woman for using it to her advantage.

It’s not all fun and games because there are some real emotional issues at play. Shibata is lonely and lost in her life. She is desperately trying to find her place in the world as an unmarried 30-something. Her story is so relatable and she is such a wonderfully rich character. I understand that this book won’t be for everyone. It’s quirky and the ending will definitely annoy some people. It also won’t really interest anyone who prefers plot to character. However, if you have a love of unusual female characters in unusual situations then give this a try. It’s a cute and funny book.

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