Out by Natsuo Kirino (Vintage)

When a book or movie comes recommended to me I try to stay away from watching the trailers, reading reviews and articles about it. I also try to ignore the blurb. This is one such recommendation.

This was the first Japanese novel I’d ever read. I’m not one of those people who can sit down and read a book in a day – I get antsy easily and end up doing other things instead. Out by Natsuo Kirino is the exception.

It was so different to anything else I’d ever read – I just couldn’t stop until I was done.

Not strictly a whodunit, as you know exactly what crime took place and which parties were involved. Normal, unassuming women become mixed up with murder, gambling, loan sharks and even the yakuza.Throughout these struggles you get a glimpse of the hardships that these women face in a patriarchal society as they navigate the complex general gender roles in Japanese society.

I found the critique of the social and economic lower class gritty and insightful.

This insight paired with the suspense of a realistic phycological thriller inspired an almost obsessive fascination with the story. Set to a completely alien backdrop it felt dark and disturbing to follow these women who are not afraid of violence.

Even though this book is sometimes very graphic in detail, that won’t be what sticks with you. After the gruesomeness disappears, you’re left thinking about the depressing everyday, despairing conditions in Tokyo, the city with the highest living cost in the world. Sometimes characters seem clearly good or bad which makes you root for or against them.

Here I felt that the characters were all relatively flawed, everyday-people and therefore quite relatable.

Read more of Tamarin's reviews on her blog.

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