Daily Archives: November 28, 2008

‘Grotesque’ by Natsuo Kirino


2008, 467 p.

The blurbs on the back of this book led me to think that I would be reading a crime novel,or a thriller but I don’t really think that it was either of these things.

The book is strung together by an unnamed narrator, who nurses a long-held hatred of her sister, Yuriko who was acclaimed for her beauty.  After a separation during adolescence, the younger sister returned to Japan and attended the same exclusive high-achieving high school as the narrator.  The story is then taken up by the sister, Yuriko who instead tells us that the narrator is a needy, manipulative woman, undercutting the authority of the narrator’s telling completely.  The two sisters’ stories are interspersed with the ‘journals’ of  school friend Kazue, and the male Chinese refugee accused of murdering both Yuriko and Kazue. They are only loosely termed ‘journals’ as they include direct speech and act mostly as  a vehicle for the author to present yet other perspectives.

So who done it? Stuffed if I know.  All these voices are deceptive and manipulative.

The book is rather sordid- both Yuriko and Kazue work as prostitutes and the lives of all these people are grubby and joyless.  There is much talk of beauty- Yuriko’s purported beauty; the beauty of bonsai; the beauty of intelligent youth that the school prides itself on nurturing- but it’s a putrid, cloying, trashy beauty.

Perhaps I’m too old, or too Western for this book.