It took a few chapters for this book to work it’s magic but once it did I was hooked. Initally I found the writing a bit stilted. My only other experience of a Japanese author is Haruki Murakami and the style between the two is quite different. That said, on the whole I enjoy direct writing and once I got used to it, thought it was perfect for a thriller like this.
Four women work the graveyard shift in a boxed lunch factory in downtown Tokyo. Each occupies a different positon on the production line. The hours are long, conditons harsh, prospects for the future poor. At the end of their shifts, the women are exhausted. Each of their home situations is equally bleak, for different reasons they all feel trapped in their domestic lives.
When one of the women gets into trouble, the other three lend a helping hand. Their shared despondency and desperation provides a kind of solidarity, almost a feeling of girl power.. for a while. What evolves is a downward spiral of grisly events, with some dark and suprising twists. Each woman is profoundly affected by her actions.The biggest threat they face is their own group dynamics and this is a fascinating aspect of the story. As is the attitude of the male characters towards each of these women and the very high value placed on youth. The strongest of the women, Masako is 43 years old yet despite this apparent “disadvantage”, she is the most appealing of the women to the male characters and is the heroine of the story in a bizarre kind of way.
Maybe not a story for those with a queasy dispositon! Quite different from anything I’ve read before, I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading more by Natsuo Kirino.
Published: 1997 (English, 2004)
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Challenges: Lost in Translation, Japanese Literature Challenge, RIP IV