A short review of Breast and Eggs by Kieko Kawakami
“Does a body’s ability to become pregnant and nurse a child – that is, the possession of breasts and eggs – determine the fate of that body?” This is a question I think we, women have asked ourselves at least once in our lives and this is the same question the novel tries to answer.
The novel is divided into two parts, the first one focused on Natsu’s sister, Makiko, a middle aged hostess who wants to get her boobs done and her teenage daughter Midoriko who hates her body “who just can’t wait to give birth to babies”. The second half centres on Natsu (a one hit wonder writer) contemplating becoming a mother while being single, asexual, and financially unstable. All the three women are alarmed by their lives and bodies.
Breasts and Eggs at its core is a novel about women figuring out how they want to be women. I find this book the perfect read after reading Nightbitch, as it somehow forms a critique of the idea that novels centred on motherhood are likely to be bourgeois and limited in their preoccupations, as Sengawa the editor in the novel says: ‘Look at all the novels women writers publish once they’re mothers. They’re all about how hard it is to have kids and to raise them. Then they’re weirdly grateful about it all, too… Authors can’t afford to have middle-class values.” Contrary to Nightbitch, the book paints a vivid account of working-class life and its aesthetic. The very intro of the book where Natsu talks about her hobby of spotting who’s poor and middle class in public trains is something I find very striking and relatable.
Just like many feminist novels, it explores how relationships between women play out in a patriarchal capitalist society. The book is surprisingly funny, confrontational and necessary, critiquing the extent to which the choices we present to ourselves were ever choices in the first place.
As for me personally, this book has made me reflect on my fascination with stories centred on motherhood as someone who plans on not having children. Perhaps, a part of me wants to know if never having that desire to be a mother makes me less of a woman.