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Billed as an “adult romance” in Japan, where it was a runaway bestseller when it came out in 2016, Keiichiro Hirano’s “At the End of the Matinee” can’t really be described as a romance novel in the typical sense for English readers.

Sure, the star-crossed protagonists play out the yearnings of a thwarted love, with the triumphs and obstacles of any dramatic affair. Yet what sets this book apart is how Hirano painstakingly renders the backdrop of their story, providing readers with a detailed view of politics, culture and economics at the start of the 21st century.

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