Tuesday has become (book) review day, it seems. Although, if I slow down with the reading, or don’t complete a book in time, it may soon become a movie review post too – so I hope you’re happy to come along for the ride! Oh, and I feel the need to preface this book review (and probably all I write!) with: I’m HOPELESS with names. I totally forget who is who, and most certainly what their name is. Occasionally I read a whole passage of text and get totally perplexed who did what. I’m not sure what’s missing in my brain, but hopefully it won’t make for a totally disjointed review!
Grotesque makes the third Japanese book I’ve read in the last few months. It’s an unintentional theme – and next up is something homely and American, for a change. Grotesque written by Natsuo Kirino, wasn’t all that grotesque. But it certainly stirred up some memories of my competitive schooling! The narrator leads the story – starting with the death of her sister and a school acquaintance, both who’ve graduated from a prestigious elite school to become prostitutes. The book then deviates into separate sections, that outline the narrators upbringing, the journals of both the dead girls, and brings everything together from the various character’s perspectives.
I think the part that spoke most to me was the sections devoted to the schooling, and the hate between the narrator and her sister Yuriko. (Not that I have a sister, or hate my siblings). I do relate to her desire to get into a school to escape the curse of her breathtakingly beautiful sister, and her malice when her academically challenged sister gains admission to the school, largely based on her looks. The narrator also makes ‘friends’ (and I use them term loosely) with Kazue and Mitsuru. Both relationships are fraught with competition, maliciousness, deception and plain meanness – extending beyond the school years.
The book is dripping in hatred. Prostitution is a large theme, that perversely brings everything full circle at the end of the book – which surprised me, and perhaps it should have. However, the story did seem to get more and more desperate as it unfolded (not the writing, but the character Kazue’s life in the second last chapter). It was a well written, cleverly developed story. Interestingly, it’s a ‘crime’ book, but not at all like other crime books – I can hardly recall if police were ever involved. The court scenes are minimal, and a lot more time is dedicated to the context of the crimes. Overall, it was an engrossing, heavy and perverse book – all in the best ways – it really did lower you into the depravity of prostitution!
However, next up, give me some lightness and joy in a book, please! I look forward to something a little brighter next! (I’ve started on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and I’m about half way through, so I should be ready with a new review next Tuesday!)