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Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Grotesque (edition 2007)

by Natsuo Kirino

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8833010,031 (3.4)64
Authors:Natsuo Kirino
Info:Knopf (2007), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 480 pages
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Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

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I found this a very disturbing book. Written in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable, in a way that I wanted to get up and DO something.

Yuriko Hirata's sister writes about her life in Japan, with a stunningly beautiful sister whom she hates. They are opposites in all aspects and do absolutely not get along. The sister attends a very expensive school, trying to get ahead in life. She has no friends at school, is somehow always argueing with the other girls, for many reasons.

Yuriko is destined to become a prostitute: the only way she knows to get things done is to please men, she's beautiful but not very bright.

Kazue Sato is a bright girl, working very hard to become and stay the best. She is awkward in her communications with boys, but gets a good job as a member of the family with an architectural an engenerical office. She is not a very social woman during the day, but to be incontrol, balanced as she calls it herself, she 'decided' to become a prostitute too: have control over men and her own life, a thing she didn't achieve in her day-life.

After Yuriko's and Kazues deaths, they were both killed while working the streets as a middle aged prostitute, the sister lets us read her diary as well as the diary of Kazue and give an inside view on their lives. Somehow she also laid hands on the court reports, the police reports about the killer and she also shares them with the reader.

These four sights give a disturbing view on the lives of these females in Japan. A harsh society, not friendly at all to women.
The stories of lives going downhill made me want to get up and shout out at them to try and make a change, somehow. I know there's nothing I can do, although I would like that. That feeling will stay with me for quite some time. I'm not sure if Kirino intended the book to have this effect, but it did on me.

Very interested in what other people think about it.

( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as creepy as it was. It's the rather disconcerting story of beautiful schoolgirl Yuriko, her less than attractive older sister, schoolmate Kazue Sato and murderer Zhang. It's a bleak look at the dark side of female relationships and forces that drive some women into prostitution.

The characters in this story were mesmerizing. They had so much disdain and hatred for others that I wanted to dig deeper into their pysches to discover why. I found the book easy to put aside and pick up later as the plot was not overly involved but was rather more character studies of a few individuals.

I've read Out, also by Natsuo Kirino, but I liked this novel much more due to its diary-like format. I'm very much looking forward to reading other novels by this same author. ( )
3 vote SqueakyChu | Feb 1, 2013 |
Rarely do you find a narrator as flawed as the main voice in Grotesque, Yuriko's sister (I don't think we even learn her name for the first 50 pages...) the characters are grotesque, but haunting. I find myself idly thinking about them six months later! ( )
  Katong | Apr 16, 2012 |
I fell in love with Kirino with [Out]. Grotesque falls a bit short of Out for me - perhaps because of the unrelenting dreary, dark path of the story.

That said, the central theme was quite interesting to me - the horror of being too beautiful. Being too beautiful can be like a dreadful deformity, because no one treats you like a human being. This is a theme I first saw in Moll Flanders, and it strikes a real chord with me, as I'm close to someone who suffers from the same thing. Like the woman in this story, the course of my friend's life was altered for the worse from a very young age due to the constant desire for her physical body. For her, something as simple as walking past men on a park bench was like someone conspicuously hauling a sack of gold doubloons through a crowded market. Normal social transactions aren't in play with someone like this, and when beauty faded, she was left with little in the way of coping mechanisms. So - lots of parallels for me in this story.

Definitely worth a read if you find this theme of interest too! ( )
  SesameG | Nov 6, 2011 |
Set in the aftermath of the murder of two prostitutes, the story is told from the point of view of the older sister of one of the murder victims, who was also a classmate of the other victim at the prestigious Q High School twenty or so years earlier. Although the narrator is not named, which is one of my pet hates in novels, I eventually came round to thinking that it was quite apt that she is always referred to as Yuriko's sister, since that is how she has always thought of herself.

The older sister is clearly an unreliable narrator. She is self-interested, self-deceiving and amoral, and extremely inconsistent. For example when introducing her sister's journal into the tale she says, "If you promise not to believe a word of it, I'll let you see what she wrote. But you really must not believe it. It really is a complete fabrication. A number of the Chinese characters she used in the journal were written incorrectly. And then there were places where she left out characters, and others where the characters she wrote were just plain ugly or else really hard to decipher. I've rewritten these parts." So the journal can't be relied on at all. From things her school-friend Mitsuru says when they meet at the trial, it seems that she has also misrepresented her time at Q High School, projecting all her difficulties onto Kazue, while denying that they also applied to herself.

The Q school system, which emphasises self-reliance and teaches that if you work hard you will get what you want, also teaches the opposite by allowing its inner circle of rich girls who entered the system at elementary school to dominate all the school clubs and bully the girls who entered at junior high, who in their turn bully and exclude the girls who enter at high school. The ex-pupils we meet, who are now in their late thirties, show that the system doesn't work; Takashi Kijima became Yuriko's pimp in his teens and now runs an escort agency; the girls include the beautiful Yuriko, who has been a prostitute since selling herself to the boys at the Q boy's high school, Kazue, who became bulimic at school in her doomed attempts to fit in with the inner circle, and resentful at her lack of progress in her career, went on to lead a double life working as a call-girl at night, Yuriko's sister, who holds down an ordinary sort of job at the local council, has allowed her maliciousness and hatred of her unnaturally beautiful sister to rule her life, and Mitsuru, who went on to study medicine at the prestigious Toyko University and became a doctor, went on to join a religious cult and spend several several years in prison.

A very interesting book, and a good choice for my book club. The only thing I didn't like was the ending. ( )
  isabelx | Mar 16, 2011 |
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Whenever I meet a man, I catch myself wondering what our child would look like if we were to make a baby.
All of them had the ability to interact with others: friends, lovers, someone to whom they could open their hearts, someone with whom they could share conversation, someone they longed to see once work was done. They had people outside the workplace who made them feel happy.
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In the wake of the brutal murders of two Tokyo prostitutes, Yuriko and Kazue, Yuriko's older sister describes the three women's education at a prestigious girls' high school, where strict societal conventions determine the courses of their lives.

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