Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2008 Reading List, 6-9

6 Out- Natsuo Kirino
Kirino is an award-winning crime/mystery writer from Japan, and I suppose it was her nationality that initially attracted me to this book. Once I'd started, however, I was quickly pulled into the world of the four women who narrate the story in turn. It begins with one woman impulsively strangling her no-good husband. The other three women are her co-workers on the night shift at a factory that makes boxed lunches. They each have problems of their own, and the grim depiction of the women's struggles is worlds away from the comfortable middle class folks who populate the Japanese novels I usually read. Colleagues turn accomplices, helping to dispose of the body in a rather grizzly fashion. The description of the dismembering is quite graphic, so much that I had to skim over some passages. I have come close to fainting twice in the past while reading similar things: the scene where a man is methodically skinned alive in Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicles, and the bloody description of a man struggling to saw through a human torso in Ian McEwan's The Innocent.

7 The Night Watch- Sarah Waters

Another wonderful Waters novel, this one set around the Second World War. Divided in three parts, it opens a couple of years after the war has ended, with the characters still struggling to piece together their lives. Subsequent sections travel backward to 1944 and 1941, revealing details that shed light on events of previous (though chronologically later) sections. This unfolding and discovery (which peaks in the brief but perfect final section) is one of the pleasures of reading this book. Another of course is the characters themselves, whose rich emotional lives are the heart of the narrative.
Two of the novel's four main characters are lesbians, as is Waters herself, but to categorize her work as Lesbian Lit would be sadly reductionist.
Again Waters has done her research brilliantly, creating a strong sense of time and place. Whether it's the post-war period of rations or London of the Blitz, one feels transported.

8 Vernon God Little- DBC Pierre

Another disappointing recipient of the Man Booker Prize. It's possible that the hyper-absurd characters/storyline and Tex-Mex setting was amusing to the British judges, but the story failed to draw me in. I simply never grew to care for any of the characters, not even the eponymous main character.

9 Japanese novel (?)

In March, I spent some time at the Tree House on Ko Chang's Lost Beach. Lost beach is fairly isolated, with only one van daily to drop off new blood and return others to civilization. After finishing the disappointing VGL, I found a hard cover Japanese book laying around. It took only a few days for me to plow through this impossibly stupid story of a girl who falls for her high school teacher. I never bothered to write down the author/title, so you'll just have to take my word for it.


Blogger jain said...

Thanks for the info, She. I'm very interested in reading "Out".

10:11 AM  

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