Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi

Diary of a Void is a novel about a woman who fakes being pregnant to improve her work experience. Shibata is the only woman in her office, so is expected to do things like keep the place tidy and make the coffee in addition to her regular duties. When she claims to be pregnant to get out of clearing away the coffee cups and cigarette ends, she is suddenly treated better, able to leave work earlier than before and use this time to make food, watch films, and take baths. A pregnancy aerobics class gives her a new set of friends, and it seems like this all suits her, but of course, it can only last for nine months.

Told from Shibata’s first person perspective, the novel combines a look at Japanese workplace culture and the expectations for women in society with an undercurrent of absurdity. The humour is also quite sad, showing a lonely character who delights in being treated a little better and feeling like she has more worth and a place to fit in, all because she is seen to be pregnant. It is well-structured, with the pregnancy app she is using a nice touch as she can use what is apparently the ‘normal’ experience as her own.

The ending goes slightly surreal, though not particularly weird, and focuses more on the humorous tone than any medical responses to faking a pregnancy. It’s a fun book that still cuts at some real issues.