This week I'll have a chance to add reviews for the two novels available in English for popular Japanese writer Shuichi Yoshida.
Yoshida was born in Nagasaki in 1968 and worked in business until he started to find success as a writer in the late 90's. Winner of various awards, including the Akutagawa prize for his book Park Life (available in french, but not yet English), as well as being longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2011 for Villain.
But to get a bit past the wiki info; Yoshida seems to have a keen interest in the minds of people who do bad things, and his work often attempts to show how the isolation of modern Japanese life creates a sociopathy. In some ways he is a much less grotesque Ryu Murakami. Those who love all his work are those who appreciate the waiting game, with a very deliberate pacing.
Four young singles share some very close quarters in Tokyo... or actually, maybe sometimes it's 5 or 6 singles... sometimes it's hard to remember, or tell completely them apart. This book may be viewed as an intro into the Japanese slacker generation...
The members of the household are each given a section to take control of the narrative and offer their insights, opinions, dreams, nightmares, failures, and explanations on how they are able to put up with sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with at least 3 other people.
Yoshida shows strength in developing characters, and showing that everyone is both simultaneously the hero and the villain... while that first part can be hard to find at times. For some these character sketches may pull you through the whole story, but I feel many will feel frustrated by obvious talent not yet developed.
As a reader, I often felt like a horse following a carrot (getting tired of chasing a thread to pull out a plot, setting down the book for months at a time) nipping out into the distance to try and taste a bit of the delicious twist that will surely be there... right, surely... and then... the last 3 pages... and there it is... a rotten carrot, like a smelly mcguffin, a joke by a man who made me read a book about 5 useless Tokyo dreamers... when we thought it might be about something much more. Just a bit more of a fleshed out ending could have added some satisfaction that is missing here at the end.
But certainly there is promise in the writing here, and to read about promise that promise coming together and shining through, come back for my next review...
Remember to check out Yoshida's Villain
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