Review: There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura. Translated by Polly Barton.

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job is my first read by Japanese author Kikuko Tsumura and what a deadpan delight it was! In it, our narrator has hit the wall on a job she’s had for years, so she decides to try shorter-term contracts at ‘easier’ jobs, for the good of her mental health. While these jobs do certainly seem easy on paper, it turns out that there is always more to them than meets the eye.

Opening sentence: Both screens showed the same person.

A Tale of Four Jobs

So, yes. The story is split into four sections, each about a new job. Maybe all are considered easy and dull in Japan, but they really intrigued me. The first: surveillance, watching people on screens for hours and noting their movements. She is assigned to watch a writer who is accidentally hiding contraband in his apartment.

When she becomes weirdly obsessed and jealous of him, she knows it’s time to bow out of that role. I was totally engrossed in every detail of this little vignette, loved it. Also, through each job, we learn more about our narrator’s wonderfully idiosyncratic take on life:

But just for that moment, I wanted permission to crank my unhappiness gauge to the max. I’d dial it back down, I promised to dial it back down right away. By the day after tomorrow at the latest.

She moves on from there to another great job: writing the scripts for bus advertising. This is actually a genius idea – bus adverts play at the stops where you can get off and see / buy from whatever has just been advertised. I haven’t seen anything so specific on transport adverting here (the UK). They are missing a trick.

Due to both the lyrical writing and more being revealed about our narrator’s offbeat (yet often highly relatable) reactions to what’s happening in her life, I was fascinated by this little story too.

She also ends up writing facts on the back of cracker packets and having an adventure in a forest. Quite the collection of jobs, wouldn’t you agree?

Maybe I don’t want the responsibility

I’ve never read a book around the theme of job-hopping before and loved how it took what could be a mundane topic and made it a glorious sideways look at the everyday. It was also refreshing to read about a character that wasn’t ambitious in the traditional sense. It seems that all you ever hear about is ‘climbing that career ladder’ and There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job is actually a celebration of doing the exact opposite:

Yet I was also very clear that I didn’t want a job that carried too much responsibility.

I really enjoyed this unique take on work. If you’re in the mood for something different and unconventional, give There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job a read. Our narrator ends up getting far more than she bargained for out of each of her roles and is definitely a poster-girl for not staying in a job if it’s grinding you down. Can you relate?

  • Published by Bloomsbury 26th November 2020 (Published in Japanese 2015)
  • 416 pages
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

7 thoughts

  1. This sounds quite fun as well as raising interesting questions about career choices.
    The advertising at bus stops is further forward in Asia than in Europe especially in terms of using “big data” to target marketing messages at individual customers. But it’s coming our way you can be sure

    Liked by 1 person

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