Books by Dianne Highbridge

IN THE EMPIRE OF DREAMS by Dianne Highbridge
Released: April 1, 1999

Drawing on her own experiences in Tokyo—having taught English to Japanese adults and being married to a Japanese man—Highbridge follows her powerful debut (A Much Younger Man, 1998) with this lesser but still compelling series of interlocking vignettes about three Western women who have come to Tokyo to pursue academic research. When Liz arrives from Australia, thoroughly rattled by culture shock and terrified of earthquakes, she finds her transition eased by Cathy and Elaine, Americans who are already ensconced in the expat community and absorbed in scholarly and other pursuits. Teaching English, the expats' bread-and-butter, is also the foundation of their social network, bringing Cathy into brief contact with the desperately unhappy Claudine, an American company wife whose fling in the love hotel, The Empire of Dreams, fails to fulfill her; and drawing Elaine into a more substantial connection with a gay American, Larry, who's deeply hurt when a longtime Japanese friend gives him the brush-off in order to steel herself for an arranged marriage. Liz enters this world happily, even when it means encountering the frosty Gwyneth, her Japanese boyfriend's British teacher, from whom he seeks advice on how to woo Liz properly. As years pass, however, the ties that once bound and the studies that once consumed the three are challenged by competing passions; ultimately, only Elaine, a historian of Buddhism, remains true to her scholarly calling. Enchantingly detailed, with insightfully developed characters and a number of remarkably imagined scenes, Highbridge's tale still needs a stronger framework to keep its many fine moments from seeming as fragmented as they do. Read full book review >
A MUCH YOUNGER MAN by Dianne Highbridge
Released: April 1, 1998

The emergence of an abiding love between a schoolteacher in her 30s and the 16-year-old son of a longtime friend is the main event in this softly rendered, erotically charged debut from Tokyo-based Australian Highbridge. Hardly enamored of her work, Aly still dutifully grades her students' papers, not even daring to think that someone might come along and change her life forever. When Tom walks down the aisle of the commuter train to sit next to her, she has trouble remembering who he is, and seeing him as the catalyst of change isn't even a possibility—after all, he's only 15. They continue to meet on the train, however, and by the time Tom has a birthday Aly views this tall, elegantly sculpted, sensitive, lute-playing youth as more than her professor friend Louise's only son. When he makes a pass at her, she offers only token resistance, and before they know it they're passionately involved. Given the age difference and her line of work, Aly is acutely aware of the repercussions should their affair be uncovered—but when the cat is finally out of the bag, the lovers are too smitten to care. He moves in with her and leaves school to get his diploma on his own, flipping burgers for money; she decides to quit teaching. Then Tom has a serious accident on his scooter, and in his weeks of convalescence his parents manage to make Aly feel guilty enough that she stops seeing him. Two dismal years pass, until the death of Tom's grandmother, the only one to view their love as the real McCoy, provides an occasion for them to find out whether what they once had is still there. As the lovers here see nought but each other, the story sees little but them and their obsession—and in that context the heights and depths of passion and each frisson of delight are finely done. Read full book review >