She’s leaving home: Breakdown, by Cathy Sweeney, reviewed

The narrator of Cathy Sweeney’s first novel has finally cracked. I say ‘finally’ because there have been signs: drinking alone; disliking her daughter, or at least her type; having an affair with her friend’s son; opening a separate bank account in her maiden name when her mother died. But in the beginning we don’t know any of this. We don’t know what she’s doing, and neither does she. It’s an ordinary Tuesday in November when she leaves her comfortable home in the suburbs of Dublin, which she shares with her husband and their two almost-adult children: ‘I grab my handbag and keys, let the front door shut behind me. I

The trials of a Tokyo housewife: Mild Vertigo, by Mieko Kanai, reviewed

Natsumi lives in a modern flat in Tokyo with her husband and two young sons, her life comfortable but circumscribed by the tedium of household chores. Washing dishes in the sink, she finds herself transfixed, gazing at the ‘rope of water’ falling from the tap, twisting like a snake: ‘There was something Sisyphean in the nature of the roster of simple domestic tasks… never an end in sight.’ Things are at once too easy and too much for her; the kitchen is so perfect she hesitates to spoil its pristine condition and ends up buying ready-cooked meals, her life shrunk to what seems stifling captivity.   She memorises the layout of