Advantages trying new things can never be a bad thing
Disadvantages slightly clumsy translation
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The ReviewThis was originally written in Japanese & translated into English by Rebecca L. Copeland.
Set in Tokyo, Grotesque (mainly) tells the stories of three women, a nameless, bitter 40 year old virgin - the narrator, older sister of the murdered prostitute, the beautiful Yuriko, who is found strangled, robbed & murdered in a small apartment and Kazue, a school "friend" of the narrator who's body is found a couple of month's after Yuriko's, under very similar circumstances, in small apartment close to where Yuriko's body was discovered.-
The book is mainly written in the first person, by the narrator. The narrators personality comes out immediately, she is one of those people who manages to blame every bad thing that has ever happened to her on other people, she seems unable to take responsibility for her own short comings. She is bitter, and spiteful, and pretty much sabotages the book by revealing the identity of the killer within the first few chapters.The narrator states that she is writing the book to tell the story of her sister's death, but she tells it devoid of emotion or empathy, never once expressing any sorrow or grief for her murdered sister or school friend, she also does not seem to express any anger towards her sister's killer.
The narrative is broken by excerpts from Yuriko & Kazue's journal, both of which the narrator finds in her possession, and also a police "confession" from the killer - allowing us to form our own opinions of the characters.-
Grotesque deals, very tactfully, with a number of different issues, such as prostitution and other sexual taboos, such as incest & pedophilia - there are no gratuitous sex scenes, in fact, there are very few, and they are not detailed - this is because the author lets the narrator tell the story, and being a 40 year old virgin, is not interested in sex so am assuming edits parts of the journals that deal with sexual encounters.The end result is a story about young women, growing up and the adults that they later become. Kirino manages to include a lot of social issues, such as social hierarchy within an elite all girl high school, and the divide between insiders (the privileged, from well to do families, who have spent all their lives within the elite "Q" educational system) and outsiders (girls who have entered through sheer hard work and determination from poorer families). Kirino continues this theme by looking at the women's roles within society as they get older, and by using the narrator and journal excerpts we are also able to see how the characters relate to each other.
Kirino successfully manages to provide a brilliant read, along with what seems to be a study into the darker side of human nature, and even though addressing a lot of uncomfortable issues, the book is never uncomfortable to read.The book is probably best described as a crime novel, even though the killer's identity is revealed at the beginning of the book (then later confirmed by way of confession), the main "crime" to solve is the question - why did these women turn to prostitution?
Why did Yuriko, once so beautiful end up as nothing more than a cheap hooker and strangled in a tiny, dirty apartment? How did Kazue, a successful career woman, employed by a big blue chip company, end up leading a secret double life, which would lead to her death?-
And Finally…Grotesque is an intelligent book, written by a woman who clearly understands people. I am not a great book fan, in fact, this is only the second book that I have read this year(!), and I chose it in under five minutes at the airport, based on the little blurb on the back of the book (pretty similar to my plot summery), and the fact that it was by a Japanese author, and set in Japan (I have a bit of a Japan fascination at the moment) - also, shamelessly I chose it because I liked the cover and the title!
I carted the book around with me for a couple of days, and eventually started reading it, when I did, I found that I could not put it down - when I eventually finished the book, I was compelled to go out and find Natsuo Kirino's only other (currently) translated book, to fill some sort of Kirino void that had been left behind!The book has been translated by a Rebecca L. Copeland, and she has done a fairly good job, as I can't imagine that translating a book from Japanese to English can be all that easy. The language does in some places feel a little forced, and perhaps cumbersome, but it does not take away from Kirino's story-telling or any moods that she is trying to set - you do however get the feeling that the story in its original language was spectacular!
I have now ordered Kirino's other book, entitled "Out" from Amazon, for the grand sum of £1, so watch this space!Stuff
Paperback: 480 pages
er...ciao thinks you listen to books, of course you can listen to books, but I read this one, so you know what to do...
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