The Woman in the Dunes

“The Woman in the Dunes” by Kobo Abe (Japan)


The first impressions of members of the Book Club were very mixed: some liked the book, whereas some did not like it all! They found the situation the protagonist finds himself in very depressing. The repetitive shovelling of sand daily made them think about the absurdity and seeming futility of life. His acceptance of the situation infuriated some readers. Others found themselves reflecting on their own personal life and making connections with what they were currently experiencing. It was pointed out that the author has in parts retold the myth of Sisyphus, who by defying the gods, was condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a mountain, at the top of which it would roll down again and he would have to start over.

The author’s description of the sand throughout was so well done that readers could feel the sand getting into everything: the sand became a character in itself. They liked the illustrations which clarified the story at times. Readers found the relationship between the man and the woman very strange and difficult to understand. One reflection was that in a life which seems futile, men and women are each other’s only entertainment!

At the end of the discussion, readers felt that there was much more to the book than was apparent after a first reading. They agreed that it would be necessary to read it a few times, digging deep in the sand to find the hidden messages! The book averaged a 6.3 out of 10.


Niki Jumpei, a teacher and amateur entymologist, arrives in a remote seaside village surrounded by sand dunes, in the search of a rare beetle. As night falls, the villagers offer him shelter in a woman’s house which is half-buried by huge sand dunes. He awakes to the terrifying realisation that the villagers have imprisoned him with no means of escape… Read more

Nicola’s Book Club reading lists

Season 6 – “World Classics (the past is masculine)” (Sep 2007 – Jan 2008)

“A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole (U.S.)
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Colombia)
“The Woman in the Dunes” by Kobo Abe (Japan)
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
“The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov (Russia) *

Season 7 – “Future World Classics (the future is feminine)” (Feb – Jun 2008)

“How Many Miles to Babylon?” by Jennifer Johnston (Ireland)
“Second-Class Citizen” by Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria)
“Eva Luna” by Isabel Allende (Chile)
“Clear Light of Day” by Anita Desai (India)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood (Canada) *

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur


“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” – Italo Calvino


The past is masculine;
The future is feminine;
And the present is a
blending together of both.
– Nicola

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