Hanako Footman

Footnote Press Ltd
United Kingdom
8 February 2024


Hanako Footman

Mei loses her Japanese mother at age six. Growing up in suburban Surrey, she yearns to fit in, suppressing both her heritage and her growing love for her best friend Fran.

Yuki leaves the Japanese countryside to pursue her dream of becoming a concert violinist in London. Lonely and far from home, she finds herself caught up in the charms of her older teacher.

Haruka attempts to navigate Tokyo's nightlife and all of its many vices, working as a hostess in seedy bars. She grieves a mother who hid so many secrets from her, until finally one of those secrets comes to light . . .

Shifting between three intertwining narratives, Mongrel reveals a tangled web of isolation, desire, love, and ultimately, hope.


Mongrel by Hanako Footman is a beautiful debut novel that captivated me from start to finish. With lyrical prose and masterful characterisation, Footman weaves a story that explores themes of heritage, identity, and hope.

From the very start, Footman draws readers into the lives of three seemingly unconnected women whose paths gradually converge in unexpected ways. Mei, grappling with the loss of her Japanese mother, struggles with the suppression of her heritage while living in Surrey, England. She begins to navigate the complexities of her own identity and sexuality. Yuki pursues her dreams of becoming a violinist, embarking on a journey from her Japanese countryside town to London, only to find herself charmed by an older mentor instead. Meanwhile, Haruka tries to find herself while working as a hostess in Tokyo’s nightlife scene, wrestling with grief, and searching for meaning from her mother’s passing.

As these stories intertwine and intersect, Footman explores the threads that bind us together, illuminating the importance and complexities of human connection. The lyrical writing style brings these stories to life, displaying an understanding of female loneliness and desire, and how the three women tackle finding their own identities.

Mongrel is my favourite read of this year so far. It is a novel that will linger with me for a long time yet. A novel that touches on the relationships of mothers, daughters and sisters, as well as the consequences of racism and misogyny. Though not always an easy read, it’s one worth taking your time and soaking up as you begin to understand the different experiences faced by the three central women. I highly recommend it for readers who are looking for a beautiful and engrossing read.

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