Books Narrated from Beyond the Grave: Background information when reading Tokyo Ueno Station

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Tokyo Ueno Station

by Yu Miri

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri X
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2020, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2021, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Books Narrated from Beyond the Grave

This article relates to Tokyo Ueno Station

Print Review

Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station is told from the viewpoint of Kazu, a ghost who wanders the grounds of the train station in which he lived out his final years. Though the book makes unique use of this framing device to explore its particular themes of poverty and homelessness, it is certainly not the only novel to feature a narrator who relays their story from beyond the grave.

There are many reasons why an author may choose to employ this particular technique. Incorporating an element of the supernatural into an otherwise realistic story can instantly lend it a quietly magical, otherworldly tone and be used to heighten its impact. A ghostly narrator is uniquely removed from the rest of the novel's action. This allows them to serve as an impartial, omniscient onlooker, witnessing and commenting on events without directly influencing them. A deceased protagonist is also free from the normal constraints of space and time, able to carry on observing, thinking and feeling long after their corporeal death. This allows an author to cover a greater span of time while retaining a consistent point-of-view if they wish, weaving past and present together with ease, and drawing thematic parallels between the two.

With all that said, here are some examples of other contemporary novels narrated from beyond the grave.

Human Acts by Han Kang Human Acts
by Han Kang

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, this hypnotic novel centers around a student uprising that turns violent, with tragic consequences for many. The narrative weaves together several voices, the most striking of which is that of a recently killed boy looking down at his own body.
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan Saving Fish from Drowning
by Amy Tan

A San Francisco art patron has meticulously organized a trip along the Burma Road for a group of friends, but following her mysterious and untimely death, she must watch them attempt to go it alone.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin Elsewhere
by Gabrielle Zevin

When she dies, aged just 15, Liz Hall finds herself in a truly unique afterlife. In Elsewhere, the deceased age in reverse from the point of their death, before being born again into a new life on Earth. This young adult offering is all about loss, grief and the pain of learning to let go.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan

When two teenage boys attempt to break the record for the world's longest kiss, they become an unexpected focal point for others struggling to navigate their own sexualities. Through a story narrated by a chorus of gay men who lost their lives during the AIDS crisis, the book poignantly brings together past, present and future generations of queer voices.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders

Putting a haunting spin on historical events, this novel centers around the deceased 11-year-old son of President Lincoln, who finds himself trapped in a strange purgatory filled with ghosts. As Lincoln visits the cemetery that holds his son's body, he is observed by a kaleidoscope of characters both living and dead.
Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah Tropic of Violence
by Nathacha Appanah

Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan, this short but impactful novel paints a harrowing picture of the struggles being endured by the children of Mayotte. Two of the five point-of-view characters speak to the reader from beyond the grave: Marie, the adoptive mother of our protagonist; and Bruce, a brutal gang leader.
Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor Heaven Can Wait
by Cally Taylor

Proving that not all books with a deceased narrator aim to strike a serious or upsetting tone, Heaven Can Wait is a romantic comedy that follows Lucy, a woman who dies in an accident the night before she is due to marry the man of her dreams. Presented with a choice, Lucy opts to become a ghost rather than pass to the afterlife, so she can stay close to her beloved and attempt to find a way back to him.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is told from the viewpoint of murdered teenager Susie Salmon. Susie watches on from heaven as the members of her family attempt to come to terms with her death and track down her killer.

Filed under Reading Lists

This "beyond the book article" relates to Tokyo Ueno Station. It originally ran in June 2020 and has been updated for the June 2021 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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