Nothing in Japanese literature prepares us for the stark, tension-filled, plot-driven realism of Natsuo Kirino's award-winning literary mystery Out.
This mesmerizing novel tells the story of a brutal murder in the staid Tokyo suburbs, as a young mother who works the night shift making boxed lunches strangles her abusive husband and then seeks the help of her coworkers to dispose of the body and cover up her crime. The coolly intelligent Masako emerges as the plot's ringleader but quickly discovers that this killing is merely the beginning, as it leads to a terrifying foray into the violent underbelly of Japanese society.
At once a masterpiece of literary suspense and pitch-black comedy of gender warfare, Out is also a moving evocation of the pressures and prejudices that drive women to extreme deeds and the friendships that bolster them in the aftermath.
©1997 Natsuo Kirino; English translation 2003 by Kodansha International Ltd. (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
I saw on the website that this book was for fans of "Gone Girl", so I used a credit. Here's some thoughts for those of you wanting to know if this was worth the listen.
1. This was the first Japanese book I've ever listened to. I think actually reading the names of the characters would be a little bit easier to keep track of them. I'm not very familiar with Japanese names and had a hard time at the beginning deciphering one name from another.
2. The narration was just okay. Not great, not that bad.... just okay. Some characters were better developed and easier to listen to than others. I've never listened this narrator before and thought she was a bit heavy handed in her portrayal of the older women giving them an unpleasant whining tone to them.
3. As described in the notes for this book it has some very very "pitch-black" humor. It is also somewhat graphic for those of you with a timid stomach. I personally like this but it's definitely not for everyone.
4. I'm not sure where I get what the "Gone Girl" comparison was all about other than each of these books are classified as Suspense/Mystery/Thriller. That's about as close as it comes other than it has a female protagonist.
Overall, it wasn't bad. I don't think I'll remember this book for very long though and definitely will not be listening to this again. If you are looking for a suspense novel, I've listened to worse. I enjoyed the change of scenery for me with it taking place in Japan.
I read nothing that is popular.
Natsuo Kirino has her own style of writing. Instead of waiting for a punch and climactic ending, "Out" is like rolling through the hills with several speed bumps alone the way. I'm not sure if it's Japanese style of storytelling or the long translation into English, but if this book was written from an American author, the story would had been a roller coaster and probably not enjoyable.
When you are reading this book, the genre is not so much as a suspense thriller, but more like a slow page turner. You really need to switch your mind to the author's pace to get into the story.
I had to stop myself at reading reviews for spoilers and get use to the pace. "Out" is not the best book that I'm read from a Japanese author, but it's comparable to "Gone Girl", but less thriller speed.
The narrator and the ending. I will never listen to the woman who narrated this book ever again. She is the absolute worst. High pitched, grating, annoying. Half the book she is over acting, the other half its like she's a combo of the blonde gal from 30 rock and a teacher reading to a pre-school class. The book was great despite her - although I don't know how sexual abuse victims would respond to the end of the book...?
I love it when I have no idea what's going to happen next.
I am a huge fan of literary Thrillers and this is definitely one of them. I would warn the faint of heart though, it is very dark. the only thing negative I have to say about it, is that I wish I would have read this instead of listening to it. The narrator can be quite annoying at times. When she's narrating, she's great. But, when she tries to create different voices for the characters, especially any male voices, it was almost laughable. And in a story as dark and intense as this one, wanting to laugh at the narrator's voice can really take you out of the story. I know it is hard for women to do male voices audio books, but I have definitely heard it done much better than it was done here.
This story was about desperation as much as it was about murder and revenge. The characters were well thought out and explained. The landscape and environment in a depresses factory town could easily be imagined.
Out is a pretty good read, I was entertained throughout most of the story. It lost me a little at the end, I wasn't a fan of the ending at all. But I've encountered a lot of books where I've been disappointed in the ending, so I guess this is the normal.
I guess Out is in the same vein as Gone Girl (which is why it was recommended to me). The suspense of what is going to happen next is exciting, and the thrill of the main characters getting caught is fun.
Masako (sp?) is definitely my favorite - she is a lot like me in many ways. Except for the main event driving the story. lol And the ending is not how I would have played it out.
Nothing extreme, I just enjoyed it.
Worth the read. :)
TRIGGER WARNINGS: rape, domestic violence, underage sex.
There's a principle of Japanese flower arranging that says "to make the best arrangement, choose 1/3 as many flowers as you think you need, then choose the best 1/3 of those and use only that much."
This book does that with works and desciptions. It is both excellently written and expertly translated. It tends to sound dry at first until you realize the carefully economic use of words gives you an unusually vivid mental image of what's going on.
The plot is extremely complex with many diverse characters, lots lots of symbolism, and plot developments that are both clever and surprising but also so logical with no continuity leaps.
On the technical level: this is a world class novel.
That, however, is where my praise stops.
The characters, with only two or three possible exceptions, are horrible people. They are complex and well developed but this somehow makes their darkness more understated and thus more potent.
The host of high functioning mental illness represented is staggering and accurate and that makes it scary as hell.
In the end you hate all of them. None of them are truly innocent. None of them deserve a happy ending and the book casts doubt on the whole idea that happy endings even exist.
I left this book feeling like I had just watched a beautifully choreographed natural disaster.
Reviews compare this to Gone Girl and it is worthy of the praise. But it is even more emotionally savage and substantially darker.
I really enjoyed this story right up until the last chapter. Without giving anything away, I was so disappointed in the ending - I almost felt betrayed! The premise was so unusual and the characters were very well-developed. The story should not have ended the way it did. Give it a listen, and see if you agree with me.
I am in the process of enjoying! I love hearing the story set in Japan: "they say the pervert is Brazilian" - well, that's different and interesting. The narration is good, not great, but the book is as dark as advertised, and intriguing. Can't wait to get to the end!
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