The Diving Pool Review
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Three women express their deep feelings of boredom and alienation in three short stories by award-winning Japanese author Yoko Ogawa in her book, The Diving Pool.

“The Diving Pool” is actually the title of the first story. In this story, a bored teenage girl expresses her resentment for being the only biological daughter of religious parents who run an orphanage referred to as The Light House. She expresses, “...I was the orphan no family wanted to adopt, the only one who could never leave The Light House.” Feeling out of place, she’s straddled with feelings of both empathy and cruelty. Her only comfort is watching her foster brother as he soars from the diving board and plunges into the water.

A woman journals the details of her sister’s pregnancy in the second story, “Pregnancy Diary.” She records months of morning sickness and mood swings as her writing slowly turns into feelings of disgust for both her sister and her pathetic brother-in-law. Similar to the first story, compassion is mixed with feelings of ambivalence and cruelty.

However, the third story, “Dormitory,” takes another turn. A lonely married woman revisits her college dormitory after helping her nephew secure a room there. Though she’s unable to touch base with her nephew, she finds herself visiting the crippled manager every day, and she learns about a sequence of tragedies that occurred since she left the dorm after college.

Though there is communication between characters, most of the action takes place in the minds of the protagonists. Since the narratives are told from the three women’s points of view, their surroundings are described in vivid detail, while the personas of the other characters are not. This made the stories drag a bit for me, since I usually find that people are much more fascinating than places or things.

What kept my interest was the anticipation of a dramatic conclusion. But while each story ends with a surprise twist, the twists are vague, and they don’t resolve the central issue of the story. Had the conclusions been more specific and dynamic, they would have been much more satisfying, but I was left with too many unanswered questions.

Though I usually enjoy stories about imperfect people reflecting on their imperfect lives, The Diving Pool left me wanting a little more.

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