The North Light

Hideo Yokoyama, Louise Heal Kawai (trans.)

The North Light
Quercus Publishing
United Kingdom
12 October 2023

The North Light

Hideo Yokoyama, Louise Heal Kawai (trans.)

Minoru Aose is an architect whose greatest achievement is to have designed the Yoshino house, a prizewinning and much discussed private residence built in the shadow of Mount Asama. Aose has never been able to replicate this triumph and his career seems to have hit a barrier, while his marriage has failed. He is shocked to learn that the Yoshino House is empty apart from a single chair, stood facing the north light of nearby Mount Asama.

How can he live with the rejection of the work he had put his heart and soul into, the dream house he would have loved to own himself? Aose determines that he must discover the truth behind this cruel and inexplicable dismissal of the Yoshino house and in doing so will find out a truth that goes back to the core of who he is.

Plotted with the subtlety of his bestselling masterpiece Six Four, The North Light is Yokoyama at his elusive, tantalising and surprising best.


At first glance one might be forgiven for thinking this is a crime novel. It is not. There is a mystery, yes, and someone died, but the further you get into this story, the more it becomes clear it is an homage to great architecture, and architects. Not what you were expecting now, was it?

Minoru Aose was given the chance to design and build the house of his dreams. Not an extravagant or decadent showpiece, rather the one he would choose to live in if he could – his ideal home. The finished product was a masterpiece, and the project had allowed the architect to forget his woes for a while (there are always woes, in this case: alcohol, an ex-wife and a teenage daughter he struggles to connect with). Now, some months later, it appears the clients never moved into the house. Aose cannot understand what has happened. They seemed so happy with his work, they were definitely planning to occupy the place immediately, where has the family of five disappeared to?

As Aose attempts to track down the mysterious owners, he discovers the work of Bruno Taut, a renowned German architect who was given sanctuary in Japan when the Nazis came to power. Having struggled for inspiration since building his dream house, Aose rediscovers his passion for great craftsmanship and design. And to the credit of the author, this passion is contagious. The beauty, art and creativity involved in creating a space for people to live, work and memorialise in becomes entrancing. Our homes are reflections of ourselves, the buildings all around us show us what kind of society it is that we live in. We should spend more time thinking about the process behind their creation, and this novel certainly made me do that.

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