Sunday, July 8, 2007

Out by Natsuro Kirino

I saw this book on the bookshelf at the store, and being a bit attuned to things Japanese of late (because of my recent trip there), it just jumped out at me. The cover proclaims it to be the "winner of Japan's grand prix for crime fiction" and an "Edgar Award finalist". The fact that it was written by a woman sealed the deal for me - I bought it.

Once again, I found myself immersed in the dark side of Japanese culture. The book follows the lives of several women who work the night-shift packaging box lunches. All of the women, though working, are struggling to get by. When one of them kills her abusive husband in a fight, they rally around her, and decide they must dispose of the body to keep anyone from knowing about the crime. How they go about doing this, and the consquences that this leads to is much like the old cliche of watching a train crash - you want to look away, but you just have to keep looking.

The characters in the book were fairly interesting, with a few stereotypical ones found any any crime drama, such as the young 'mafia-type' punk who wants to make a name for himself. I can't say that I could identify with any of them - nor could I really feel the desperation that their situation supposedly put them in. I don't know if this is due to the translation, the nature of Japanese novels, or the nature of this author's writing. So I never really "connected" with the book. While the depiction of the dark side of Japanese life was intriguing, it didn't really reach out and grab me. (And I still don't know what the "out" of the title refers to - getting "out" of the situation? Being "out" of normal society?) So, not sure I'll read another of her books.

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