This is a short, curious novel that has one of my favorite tropes, the violently angry philosophical tyrant in a 13 year old boy’s body. We are dealing with three characters over the course of many years and there’s a lot of moving back and forth in their lives. Noboru, our teenage tyrant, is leader of a gang of father-hating teen boys who are also good students. They are lead by Noboru’s who hatred for his absent father, who he believes is the source of all grotesque venality in the world, is tranferred to Ryuji, a longtime sailor who has left his commercial boating career behind and wants to marry Fusako, a local shopowner who happens to be Noboru’s mother.
So the book itself is spare and meditative mostly, but jumps around from the different characters as they interact. We spend the first half of the novel entirely with Ryuji as he slowly comes to realize that he is not indeed bound for greatness and his life on the sea is short-lived (by the way this is a contemporary novel, so we’re not talking ancient seafaring or historical novel here). As he works himself up to be deserving of Fusako, he saves his money and tries to work out his feelings with the world. As we move to the second half, we focus on Noboru, and the horror he has of grown men. Thinking all men must be like his father leads to deep anxiety with his mother’s potential mother, of course deeply informed by the realization that his horror about men, might be a horror about his own fate.