Friday, April 27, 2007

GROTESQUE by Natsuo Kirino

I had heard so many good things about this book that I was really excited to read it. I thought it was going to be more of murder/suspense type of book. However, it really ended up being more of a social commentary on Japan.

GROTESQUE focuses on the lives of several women from their high school days until their late thirties. Two of the women are dead as the story begins. It appears they have been murdered by a Chinese immigrant. The story is mostly narrated by the older sister of one of the victims. Her character reminded me a lot of the narrator of WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? by Zoe Heller. (the book that "Notes on a Scandal" was based on) Very cold. Very calculated. As the story continues, the journals and statements of other characters help to continue the narrative. Instead of focusing on the murder trial and its outcome, the book moves into a study of the effects of Japanese society on women and immigrants. The pressure of success and recognition warp and damage these women to the point that sex becomes their only defining characteristic.

The book is fascinating but fails to deliver at the end. I felt that there was a buildup that did not amount to anything. There were so many more things I wanted to know and so many more questions that needed to be answered. But the characters were intriguing and the writing was excellent.

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