Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review- Daisuki Hildred Billings

by Hildred Billings
Sep. 24, 2012 
Words: 45.8 K

Two Japanese women attempt to balance their relationship with their society's rigid gender roles, polyamorous relations, and the inability to say "I love you."

I got this book for several reasons. I've lived in Japan, use to speak Japanese fluently and I still have a deep love for the country and culture. I've also really craved reading a Japanese lesbian love story, which is very rare. So it was a no-brainer to read this.

Generally I liked the book. However, I had some issues with it that to be honest are more about personal taste than actual technical issues with the book/story itself.

Aiko is a character that I liked a lot and sympathized with. She's simply in love with Reina and in some way subjugates her own desires regularly to be with Reina due to the fact that Reina is the only one she wants.

Reina came across as too callous for me. I didn't like her from the get-go because she acts so indifferent to Aiko and Aiko’s feelings in many ways. And although she goes through something towards the end of the book that causes her to reflect on who she is and what's she's doing, I never did warm up to her and I almost DNF’d the book due to her.

The interesting thing about this relationship is that the story starts after they've been together for 20 years already. Intriguing, but also something that made me logically think about the issues they are going through as a couple. Clearly they are not a new couple. Nor are they young. However, this story read as something a younger, in age and length of time together, couple would go through or how they would act. After 20 years I'd probably expect more maturity and self-knowledge about who they are as a couple and themselves as individuals. But further on that in a bit.

They have a long history of having multiple partners. Sometimes within the relationship and sometimes outside on their own without each other. Reina does this as she pleases, but it seems Aiko goes along with it more to please Reina or as a reaction to Reina doing it. It is clear that they do love each other though. Kind of like that couple that sticks together and people don't get why.

Although it's clear in the extended description of the story that both Aiko and Reina are having conflicts about lack of commitment and I was forewarned, I’m not too fond of the sleeping around within a committed couple story when both parties are not part of the equation. I don’t get being with someone for 20 years while sleeping with all kinds of people outside of the relationship. What’s the point of that relationship then? Who would want to spend 20 years with someone who could take you or leave you for the night?

I’m fine with polyamory relationships and I don’t have issue with them if all parties are committed all to each other. But these two came across more as roommates with benefits and less as a committed couple who actually care about how their individual actions affect the other. The only thing that mitigated that for me, barely, is that they are both in agreement of it.

One of the things that I found curious in a sort of "what the hell?" way, was that Reina starts wondering about her gender identity. It seemed to only come from the fact that people viewed her as masculine looking and that she and Aiko have traditional male/female roles within the relationship as lesbians in a herteronormative world and in a strong patriarchal Japanese culture  instead of it coming from something more internal an inherent to her being.

It bothered me because they’ve lived like that for so long and suddenly gender identity is an issue. And it really only comes to the forefront because of an incident with a man’s judgment of Reina as a woman who looks mannish.

That said, I think it’s an interesting subject to explore. Many of the lesbian “romance” I’ve read has portrayed a butch/femme relationship and none of them have broached the idea of questioning gender identity and exploring that within a relationship.

I see that the author has written several more books with the continuation or more parts to Aiko and Reina’s story. However, it felt like I entered the middle of something that didn’t have enough of a beginning to explain who they are and or an ending that completes it other than they might become a more committed couple. Maybe the next few will go into Reina having a sex change, which might be interesting. But the relationship dynamics represented in this story doesn’t make it appealing for me to read more.

Aside from musings above, I really, really loved the sprinkling of Japanese throughout the book. I suspect many readers who don’t know any Japanese might find it tedious or gloss over it. But it did add to any enjoyment I had reading the book.

I think this book could appeal to a lot of readers due to subject matter. Unfortunately it just didn’t spark enough in me to read more. I would, however try another of this author’s books if it’s not about Reina and Aiko or about lesbians who just fuck around with every other lesbian, which I’m so tired of reading and which seems to be common in lesbian books.

Heat Level: 3 it's touted as an erotic story but I didn't find it too graphic.
Rating: It was OK

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