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Yoko Ogawa’s collection of novellas, “The Diving Pool,” plunges the reader into three psychologically tense stories. Across each tale, the characters subvert expectation with distanced cruelty as Ogawa considers three landmarks in life: first love, pregnancy and wifehood.

The titular novella juxtaposes teenage Aya’s sexual desires with her fixation on sadism. Aya’s parents run a religious orphanage and her romantic attentions become focused on Jun, a long-term resident and competitive diver. Simultaneously, her sadism targets the youngest orphan, trapping the vulnerable toddler in an urn, poisoning her with a rotten cream cake. It’s a coldly etched portrait of competing passions.

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