From Publishers Weekly
Apparently set in medieval Japan, Valente's second novel, an allegorical fantasy whose dreamlike threads reach into Shinto and Western myth, mathematics and physics, is more accessible than her poetically surreal debut, The Labyrinth (2004), which centered on the Greek myth of the Minotaur. Now an old woman, Ayako as a child escaped the destruction of her village and found solitary refuge on a nearby mountain. Her only contact with humanity comes, years later, when the village is reinhabited. Believing her to be a ghost, the villagers seek to appease her with annual offerings of rice and tea. The minimal story line follows Ayako as she slowly advances up five levels of a pagoda and discovers a book of dreams. Nothing is certain—Ayako may be a goddess or a dream or a leonine monster—but, by the end, much wisdom has been learned. Those who admire literary craft and rich language will most appreciate this sublime tale. (June)
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Yume No Hon, or, in English, The Book of Dreams, is the story of a woman, Ayako, who lives alone on a mountain. Her only visitors are village boys, who bring gifts of tea and think she is a spirit. She doesn't often try to talk to them, for spirits aren't supposed to ask questions. She wanders through dreams and myths, receiving lessons from the mountain and the river, climbing through successive levels of a pagoda as the seasons change, aging through the seasons of many years, and learning from all she observes. Yume No Hon is also about the burning of Troy, the riddles of the Sphinx, the creation of the world, and other dream stories drawn from myths. Ayako is the center of a legend of woman, and her dream people are goddesses of many traditions. Yume No Hon is an internal landscape painted with thoroughly poetic turns of phrase and a slim volume that packs a great deal of punch in its fleetingly short chapters. Regina Schroeder
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