Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino does not write about pleasant people or situations. A few months ago, I read her book, Out, that takes as it's subject matter three factory women who band together to commit a murder. She explores this territory further in her latest book, Grotesque.

Kirino explores the relationship between two sisters, and their classmates at an exclusive girl's school. Yuriko is the most beautiful girl in the school by far, so beautiful that she is considered almost monstrous, as no one can relate to her. Her older sister, intelligent but average looking, chooses to distinguish herself by becoming the most malicious girl in the school. Her main target is Kazue Sato. Kazue is intelligent but hopelessly awkward, and is teased and humiliated by the others. The top ranked girl, Mitsuri, drifts between cliques, but befriends the older sister.

Years later, these women have turned out differently than might have been expected. Mitsuri, after becoming a doctor, gets involved in a religious cult and is imprisoned for crimes she committed out of devotion to the leader. The older sister lives a life of quiet desperation, stuck in a dead end job and with no human contact or warmth. Both Yuriko and Kazue become prostitutes, and both end up murdered by the same man.

This is not an uplifting book. There are no characters that I'd like to know better, and the book is very bleak. I was left wondering if Japanese society is really as depressing for women as the book portrays. In particular, the prostitutes were willing to degrade themselves in any way requested, without even knowing themselves why they did so. I'm not sure I would recommend this book to others.

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