I think what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been wanting to become friends with the Woman in the Purple Skirt for a very long time…
Almost every afternoon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt sits on the same park bench, where she eats a cream bun while the local children make a game of trying to get her attention. Unbeknownst to her, she is being watched–by the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who is always perched just out of sight, monitoring which buses she takes, what she eats, whom she speaks to.
From a distance, the Woman in the Purple Skirt looks like a schoolgirl, but there are age spots on her face, and her hair is dry and stiff. She is single, she lives in a small apartment, and she is short on money–just like the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who lures her to a job as a housekeeper at a hotel, where she too is a housekeeper. Soon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt is having an affair with the boss and all eyes are on her. But no one knows or cares about the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. That’s the difference between her and the Woman in the Purple Skirt.
Studiously deadpan and chillingly voyeuristic, and with the off-kilter appeal of the novels of Ottessa Moshfegh, The Woman in the Purple Skirt explores envy, loneliness, power dynamics, and the vulnerability of unmarried women in a taut, suspenseful narrative about the sometimes desperate desire to be seen.
Natsuko Imamura is one of Japan’s most exciting women writers. Nominated three times for the Akutagawa Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Japan, she won it in 2019 for The Woman in the Purple Skirt. A self-professed fan of Yoko Ogawa’s, she has been called “a second Sayaka Murata” (the author of Convenience Store Woman) for her use of acerbic humor and satire. Born in Hiroshima, she now lives in Osaka with her husband and their daughter. Like the main character in The Woman in the Purple Skirt, she has worked in a hotel as a housekeeper.