Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

grotesque natsuo kirino

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Japanese thriller fiction

Original title Gurotesuku

Translator – Rebecca Copeland

Source  Personnel copy

I tend to buy most books I see second-hand in translation ,that appeal on some level this was the case with this book I saw it in a charity shop last summer and put up on the shelf so when tony announced that he was doing January in Japan it seemed a perfect time to read this crime thriller .Natsuo Kirino is female Japanese writer .she is a leading figure in the current boom in female detective fiction this is the second of three crime novels she has had translated into English .She also writes romance novel in Japan under a different name .So to Grotesque the title is maybe a comment on the world that is involved in the book ..

It was the kind of navy-blue knee sock most everyone wore .Only this one had a Ralph Lauren logo on top

Everyone was completely nonchalant .No one seemed to care if they’d lost something because unlike me ,they could go out and buy another one .That is why I found it odd that this girl was making such a fuss over a lousy sock .She held it out to show her friends.

The school where it starts is rather posh .

Well I was a bit nervous about this book as I’m not a huge Genre reader at best of times .But as I started I was slowly drawn into this world of women with secrets ,those secrets selling their body to men for money and  two women that end up dead but have different journey into prostitution but did start at the same school growing up .these two women Yuriko and Kauze had problems at school but both end on the streets now they’ve been murder Yuriko younger sister is trying to find out what happened and is delving into the dark underground world that her sister ended up living in .She sees how via her Journal she start with rich business men but like a footballer that stays on playing to long she started to slid and ended on the street corner rather like seeing a once great player plying their trade for a lower league club .The world we are drawn into is very seedy her sister went to an expensive school and gets dazzled by the labels and life that she see this is how she ends up in the game so to speak .We see how these girls fall and how the police and the sister try to find the killer .

When I met Yuriko ,it spelled misfortune for us both .I heard from detective Takashi that Ms Hirata had once been beautiful and had worked as a model .Detective Takashi went on to say that as she grew old and ugly she became a cheap street-walker ” But I thought she was beautiful .

One of the men that her sister used to meet .

Well I wasn’t looking forward to much to the subject matter in this book but Kirino handles it with a careful hand not making the early life in prostitution with the rich business men  for the sister and her school friend seem to glamorous, she also makes the gritty descent  to street walker and the working and perverse men she meets on street corners seem real and Yuirko in particular is a character that in the end I felt really sorry for because she had it all and threw it away  and the way  she was murdered and how this one beautiful women had fallen .The lives are fleshed out by the fact a couple of chapter are written as if they are the girls journal .I felt this book had quite a feminist feel to it and about how women are viewed in Japan and how wrong this is sometime .  This isn’t so much a crime novel as a study into the underworld of prostitution and the men that use them the murders are only a sideline in the narrative .

Have you read this book or any books by Kirino ?

34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 17:44:43

    I like her work. I think she has a unique voice. she has a Canongate myth series comming called The Goddess Chronicle


  2. farmlanebooks
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 18:51:12

    I had no idea she writes romance novels under a different name – do you know what it is? I’d love to try those.

    I’ve read this book, but remember very little about it. All I remember is that in comparison to Out (my favourite thriller of all time) this seemed a bit disappointing. I hope you get to try Out one day and love it as much as I do.


  3. parrish lantern
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 20:31:10

    enjoyed this but not as good as out.


  4. Tony
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 21:32:28

    Not one for me, but glad you enjoyed it Stu 🙂


  5. whisperinggums
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 21:51:36

    Oh, I read this before I started blogging Stu and it made a big impression on me. I have another of hers in my TBR pile now. Like you I am not a genre reader but this was, as you say, about society and character. It wasn’t the plot that interested me so much – after all we know they are dead – but the whole culture that these girls were caught up in and, as you say, the difficulty for Japanese women to be independent. It’s quite a chilling book in terms of the dislocation and the alienation some of the characters feel. I have another of her books on my TBR, but not Out though I’d like to read it.


  6. novelinsights
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 23:18:02

    Hey Stu. I chose this for a book group a few years ago and loved it (although it got mixed reviews from the group for being a bit grim!). If you liked this you must read Out.


  7. Ryan
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 00:16:44

    I read this book a few years ago. It was given to me by a friend at a point when I have very few reading options. I went in with zero expectations and found it surprisingly good. I’d read another kirino book if I ever got the chance.


  8. Seamus Duggan
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 00:36:59

    My next book in line is Out. I’m excited about it now!


  9. Mel u
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 01:33:48

    I read this and Out maybe two years ago. I liked them both but i think I prefer Out. I feel both are worth reading for fans of Noir.


  10. Bellezza
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 04:03:02

    I have not read Grotesque, but I did read Out and Real World. I thought they were excellent, especially Out, and I would very much like to read Grotesque. Your post has made it all the more interesting to me, for I find Kirino writing not just of dark worlds but of women’s place in them.


  11. Tom Cunliffe
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 08:51:37

    Fascinating stuff – but rather a seedy subject, but it sounds like it was handled very well. I never really think of going to charity shops for books as they seem to be full of stuff I read years ago, but perhaps it’s worth a browse. I shall try again soon


  12. Amritorupa Kanjilal (Rivers I Have Known)
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 10:31:43

    Thank you for the review Stu. I just got myself a copy based on your review. Hope I enjoy it. I have been reading Murakami all month, so it will be nice to end it with a japanese flavour.


  13. Max Cairnduff
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 12:36:13

    I’ve not read this one, though I’ve heard of the author. It sounds like one of those books where I’d possibly rather wait and watch the film which is likely to follow, if that makes sense. Still, the feminist angle makes it more interesting. Is it a long read Stu?


  14. sakura
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 22:50:11

    I found this one to be a much more disturbing read than Out (which is also crime thriller) probably because it features young girls and prostitution which isn’t the easiest thing to read anyway. But I loved Out and plan on reading more novels by her.


  15. Bina
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 22:32:29

    I read this one last year and was quite fascinated how Kirino handles the disturbing subject matter. I don’t always like to read to dark books, but the topics were really important and dark so well done. Out is on my list, I’ve heard so many good things about it.


  16. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 22:56:04

    Hi, Stu–
    Last fall I borrowed this for Ken who has enjoyed a number of Japanese crime/horror novels. He put this one down immediately and said it was too much for his brain to wrap around and still sleep at night.
    But I think I’d like to try it, especially because of the women’s issues Kirino addresses.
    Thank you for reminding me of it!
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


  17. JoV
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 21:27:53

    What a coincidence Stu. I am reading Out now (Since the whole world have read it!). I would say Ms Kirino takes her time elaborating every detail about every character which I thought could be a bit overdoing it since I wanted to know what happen next, very quickly… There are scenes in Out that I don’t think I will ever clear it off from my brain or memory cache and deep recesses of my mind because it is so grim and graphic. If Grotesque is of horror genre, I don’t think I want to read it. Thanks for the review.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 21:49:43

      Yes very well plotted and great characters I wonder if they are done with an eye to being made to films . I must get out soon as seems very popular as well all the best stu


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January 2013


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