Monday, September 11, 2006

Book #34- Out

by Natsuo Kirino
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
Fiction/Crime Thriller, 1997 (English translation, 2003)
Vintage UK, trade pb, 520 p.

What happens when you cross the line...
...when you discover a taste for the unthinkable?
Could you be drawn into a murder?
For friendship?
For a way out of your dreary existence?

In the Tokyo suburbs four women work the draining graveyard shift at a boxed-lunch factory. Burdened with chores and heavy debts and isolated from husbands and children, they all secretly dream of a way out of their dead-end lives.

A young mother among them finally cracks and strangles her philandering, gambling husband then confesses her crime to Masako, the closest of her colleagues. For reasons of her own, Masako agrees to assist her friend and seeks the help of the other co-workers to dismember and dispose of the body...

Out is a psychologically taut and unflinching foray into the darkest recesses of the human soul, an unsettling reminder that the desperate desire for freedom can make the most ordinary person do the unimaginable.
A dark, disturbing story and a pretty bleak look at urban Japanese culture, especially in terms of the role of women in it. There was no real mystery to solve, as we know from early on who murdered who, and who helped dispose of the body, but the tension kept building throughout the novel, and kept me turning the pages. Narrated as it was by the culprits, even while not condoning what they did, I found myself siding with them; their desperate actions seemed to make a certain kind of sense. It was pretty gruesome at times and I'm still not sure what to make of the violent ending. Not for the faint of heart, but an intense, well-written, psychological thriller.

Note on the translation: This was one of the rare cases, at least in my experience, when the translation seemed to stand out as being especially smooth and well-done. Even when he added in subtle descriptions, that I can only guess weren't in the original Japanese, to make it more accessible for English readers, it was never obvious or clunky. I would happily read something else he's translated.

My Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Also reviewed at:
Tip of the Iceberg
Musings of a Bookish Kitty


  1. Hi Tanabata ~ We've crossed paths on Lesley's Book Nook. Hope you don't mind me posting here. Would you mind if I added you onto my links?

    Ewwwww...I have this on my A~Z Author List as a possible "K" book. I just may have to chose it now! Thanks for the review. :)

  2. Hi Joy. Not at all. I actually already added you to my links recently, having 'seen' you on Les' and bookfool's blogs. :)

  3. I have been meaning to go back to this book. I tried reading it once but it was my nighttime book and I didn't really want to have nightmares :)

  4. Iliana, I did read it mostly at night, since that's my main reading time, but if you're sensitive to nightmares I would recommend daytime reading! Mainly I would say though not to read certain sections while eating!! :P

  5. I read this book--I thought it was well done, too. I'd like to read something else by her, but I am not sure anything else has been translated? Isn't it curious how a good author can make you side with the criminals? I thought this way with The Talented Mr Ripley, too!

  6. Hi Danielle,
    Out was her first book to be translated into English but since it did well I believe they are planning to translate more of them. Looking at Amazon, there will be one called "Grotesque" released next spring. I'll be curious to read it.

  7. I just posted my review. I linked to your review. Sounds like we had similar thoughts!

  8. Terri- I've added a link to your review, now I'm off to read it. :)

  9. The translation was wonderful. I had completely forgotten it was translated until I was going back and writing up my notes after reading the book.

  10. Wendy- I'm always interested in the translation, how smoothly it reads, and wondering how close it is to the original. He really did a wonderful job.


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