Review: Fault Lines by Emily Itami (2021)


Mizuki is a Japanese housewife. She has a hardworking husband, two adorable children and a beautiful Tokyo apartment. It’s everything a woman could want, yet sometimes she wonders whether it would be more fun to throw herself off the high-rise balcony than spend another evening not talking to her husband or hanging up laundry.

Then, one rainy night, she meets Kiyoshi, a successful restaurateur. In him, she rediscovers freedom, friendship, a voice, and the neon, electric pulse of the city she has always loved. But the further she falls into their relationship, the clearer it becomes that she is living two lives – and in the end, we can choose only one.

Alluring, compelling, startlingly honest and darkly funny, Fault Lines is a bittersweet love story and a daring exploration of modern relationships from a writer to watch.


Phoenix Books is the new imprint from Orion, and definitely one to watch. I was thrilled to receive a beautiful finished copy of Fault Lines (with gorgeous cover design by Holly Ovenden) in exchange for an honest review.

There is a growing and welcome trend in literature towards exploring the ‘dark side’ of motherhood, the unspoken thoughts we are too ashamed to articulate. Fault Lines is partly about this, about the yearning for more, the sense of loss of identity and endless tedium, stirring up a desire to rebel, and it is brilliantly depicted. In the close first person narrative of Mizuki, we are drawn into her story, which she relates to us as “one last scream” before she settles back down into her life. It is a short novel, and thoroughly immersive – I felt as if I was swimming in Mizuki’s consciousness for the duration of reading.

There are so many individual strands that come together beautifully. The descriptions of Tokyo as Mizuki discovers it anew through Kiyoshi’s eyes, taking him to her favourite hidden places, getting caught up in the glamour of his entrepreneurial lifestyle are rich and atmospheric, peeling back the layers of a city with many sides. The relationship itself feels fresh and original – it is exciting to see them get to know each other, falling in love without the predictable, cliched markers. There is so much emotion in this book, but it is handled so skilfully and delicately, overlaid with style and humour. It is a thoroughly modern book, unique and gripping in its unravelling of domestic mundanity and the darkness that lurks beneath.

I loved Itami’s writing – the prose is precise and piercing, descriptive without being overwritten, and I am really excited to read more of her work in the future. Do get your hands on this one if you haven’t already read it – this is a very special book.

Fault Lines by Emily Itami is out now from Phoenix Books and is available to purchase here.


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