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 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 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.
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.
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