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Ogawa Book Club Post— “Pregnancy Diary”

By Amber Qureshi

In her second post for our Diving Pool-discussion, Amber Qureshi discusses "Pregnancy Diary,"one of the novellas from the book and poses questions for our readers. You can find links to previous posts in the discussion at the bottom of the page, and we encourage you to read them and to join in the discussion.—Editors

Much of the power of the story "Pregnancy Diary," it occurs to me, comes through Yoko Ogawa's clever use of perspective. As with much of Ogawa's work, including the novel The Professor and the Housekeeper, which is being published in the U.S. now, our first-person narrator controls our primary impression of the action of the story with an iron fist. Secondary information about the action comes to us through the words and actions of the other characters, but we only get to see the actions and words that the narrator allows us to see. Yet the most interesting events of the story occur in the gaps—those gaps between what the narrator intends us to see and what is actually happening; between the two sisters; between the pregnant sister and her husband; the gap between now and the moment when the narrator and her sister would roll down the "carefully tended lawn behind the [maternity hospital]" where "glimpses of green grass and dazzling sky alternated in [her] vision [and] the sky and the wind and the earth would recede for a moment and [she] felt as if [she] were floating in space." In these gaps there are haunting, morbid, honest, and unflinching impressions of family, childhood, innocence, faith in science, and the curious repercussions of the passage of time.

I'd like to continue our discussion of The Diving Pool with a closer look at "Pregnancy Diary" and how it hit you, the reader. A number of questions to discuss or to ignore as you like:

How close do you think the two sisters really are?

Why do you think that the brother-in-law's parents make the narrator uncomfortable?

Do you think that the sister and her husband are in a happy marriage? Why or why not?

The narrator uses some interesting imagery to describe the unborn child and the couple in her home—why do you think she chooses the injured birds, the "wispy shadow", the laboratory beaker?

There is an attention to method in our narrator that is near-scientific. How is her pregnant sister similar or different? Why do you think that only one of the sisters is in therapy? Do you think that the sister is interested in her therapist? Is the narrator projecting her own desires on her sister?

The narrator's opinion of her sister's forthcoming baby is fairly clear. How do you think the sister feels about her own pregnancy?

How is food used to make various points in the story?

The story is structured around the calendar, reminiscent of the recent and amazing Romanian film Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days, partly because time is so crucial in a pregnancy. In what other ways is time crucial to the relationships described in this story?

I hope you'll add your comments below, and of course, feel free to add your own questions as well.


Previous posts in this series:

Amber's introduction to Yoko Ogawa

Stephen Snyder's interview with Amber Qureshi

The video from the Idlewild discussion of The Diving Pool

Austin Woerner blogs about the Idlewild discussion.

Published Jan 16, 2009   Copyright 2009 Amber Qureshi

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