The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

The Woman in the Purple Skirt is an unsettling novel about obsession, in which a woman who visits the same park bench every day is being watched. There is a woman in a purple skirt, a distinctive woman who seems to follow her own routine, sitting in the park every afternoon whilst children try and elicit a reaction from her. It becomes apparent that someone—the narrator—is watching her, but they want to actually know the woman, and so a strange descent into the world of the woman in the purple skirt begins.

This is a book that immediately drew me in, through its unsettling atmosphere and strange sense of observation. In some ways, the narration at least to begin with isn’t different from other books introducing a quirky character, but it quickly becomes apparent that something is going on with the narrator, who is the one actually watching the titular woman. You’re forced to join in the observation, watching what the narrator does, but unable to see any more. A lot of the suspense comes from not knowing why the narrator is obsessed with this woman, but also not quite being sure the rules of the game either.

For a book that raises so many questions, it is hard to put down, and as it’s quite a short novel, it’s quite easy to get lost in the world of the woman with the purple skirt until you emerge on the other side. I really enjoyed its distinctive atmosphere and the strange obsession at its heart.