I wasn’t sure if I should write this review right away or wait a few days for my thoughts to sort themselves out. As you can see I chose to go right ahead and write. Bear with me, this review might be a mess.
“For a girl, appearance can be a powerful form of oppression. No matter how intelligent a girl may be, no matter her many talents, these attributes are not easily discerned. Brains and talent will never stand up against a girl who is clearly physically attractive.”
Grotesque is a story about two Japanese sex workers who are found dead almost a year apart. Throughout the story we follow their early lives and the events that led up to their deaths. Majority of the novel focuses on the daily lives and prejudices women in Japan face. Told through recollections, diary entries, and confessions. While also switching POVs with others who grew up alongside them, with a slow narrative and a complex story line, I found the story to be far more interesting than I expected. I think it would be better to go into this not knowing much more than what the synopsis tells you.
I cannot tell you the numbers of times I had to take a break from this book because of how uncomfortable this book made me. Maybe because of how many hard truths and topics this book addressed? I’m not sure. I also had to put it down every few chapters because of how hateful and unlikeable these characters were. Yuriko’s sister (who we never learn the name of? that was one mystery I wanted solved by the end) and her psychological bullying of her classmates and sister really irked me. Yet, she was my favorite narrator and the one I found to tell the story in a fast-paced, never-want-to-put-this-book-down kind of way. Other point-of-views like Zhang’s and Kazue’s were harder to get through. I felt Zhang’s story of Chinese immigration was out of place and Kazue’s entries were bland. I honestly sped through and even skimmed some parts of both POVs.
After finishing this book I can say I still don’t know everything that happened. I have no idea what was considered the truth and what were considered lies. By the last chapter, a lot is left unanswered and rushed. With so many unreliable characters in one novel it’s always hard to keep up.
Do I recommend it? It depends. I see where this book can be hard hitting for some and boring for others. I think I fell between the two, depending on who’s POV I’m considering.
I will say that this story will not be for everyone. I will be listing trigger warnings below for the topics I did catch. If anyone has read this novel, please feel free to add your own trigger warnings, that I might have missed, through the comments. Thank you!
- Physical and Emotional Abuse
- Eating Disorder
Rating: ★★★☆☆ ½ | Read March 24 – 29
Genre: Fiction / Mystery?
(I wouldn’t consider this your typical mystery novel)
Life at the prestigious Q High School for Girls in Tokyo exists on a precise social axis: a world of insiders and outsiders, of haves and have-nots. Beautiful Yuriko and her unpopular, unnamed sister exist in different spheres; the hopelessly awkward Kazue Sato floats around among them, trying to fit in.Years later, Yuriko and Kazue are dead — both have become prostitutes and both have been brutally murdered.
Natsuo Kirino, celebrated author of Out, seamlessly weaves together the stories of these women’s struggles within the conventions and restrictions of Japanese society. At once a psychological investigation of the pressures facing Japanese women and a classic work of noir fiction, Grotesque is a brilliantly twisted novel of ambition, desire, beauty, cruelty, and identity by one of our most electrifying writers.