Book review: There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, translated by Polly Barton

there's no such thing as an easy jobThere’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job is interesting to me on two levels. First, the literal one. Like the unnamed narrator, I left a stressful career for a series of short-term routine jobs. I thought this would mean I could switch off and simply complete the tasks required, immune from office dramas or the requirement to fake enthusiasm (guess how that worked out).

More profoundly, There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job drew me in because it is about creativity, about how the stories we tell about ourselves both shape and are shaped by our engagement with the world around us.

Initially we know little about the narrator aside from her employment situation and the fact that she is 36. What we do learn emerges slowly (you have to wait till right near the end to learn about the job which led her to burn out).

Her first job involves carrying out covert surveillance of a writer in his home, for reasons which are gradually revealed. Watching him is both mundane and transformative. From the outside his life seems boring, she has no insight into what he is creating, but she finds her world subtly shifting as a result of observing him.

The assignment reaches its denouement and then she moves onto a series of other jobs, from writing trivia for packs of rice crackers to perforating tickets for visitors to a forest park. Each time, every small action she takes has uncanny and unforeseen consequences on those around her.

I enjoyed the details of Japanese life that were different – the food, the office culture, the glimpses of social life. I was amused by those that are the same – the tedium and camaraderie of office life, the clichés of football fans. I was charmed and intrigued. For a while.

But then … I began to burn out myself. The narrator’s tone is constant throughout, her naïve wonderment untouched by experience. And while the novel appeals to me at the level of ideas, the story itself feels quite repetitive and slow.

I feel it would have been a better book if it was half as long. Despite that, I have found myself puzzling over it since I finished reading. There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job may have been a chore but I couldn’t help being drawn in and a little changed myself.

I received a copy of There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job from the publisher via Netgalley.
View There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job on Goodreads

Enjoyed this? For a different perspective on a woman searching for her place in the world of work read my review of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

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