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A tale of unanswered prayers, Fumiko Enchi’s “The Waiting Years” is an elegy on the subservience that once haunted Japanese womanhood.

p>Set in the early Meiji Era (1868-1912), the story begins when Yukitomo Shirakawa, a lecherous bureaucrat and samurai descendant, tells his wife Tomo to find an “inexperienced” maid for their household. As Tomo is painfully aware, she buys the 15-year-old Suga as a live-in mistress, the first in a line of sickening bargains to feed her husband’s libido. Over the next 30 years, as Shirakawa and the feudal rulers lose the fight against the civil rights movement, Tomo handles without objection a cast of underage concubines, surrendering her own dignity to family duty and social appearance.

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