Author: Ryu Murakami
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Date: June 2010
A LibraryThing Early Reviewer Book
Audition is the novel behind the 1999 cult classic Japanese movie by the same name and has only recently been translated into English. This rather short novel (190 pages) falls into the suspense/horror category.
The main character is Aoyama, a 42 year old widower with a 15 year old son named Shige. Aoyama decides to begin dating after Shige suggests, "Why don't you find yourself a new wife, Pops?" The only problem is that Aoyama is rather rusty and a bit nervous at the prospect of finding the right woman to date. A filmmaker friend suggests that Aoyama help with a casting call for a movie they don't intend to produce, and in this way audition ladies before asking them out for a date. Aoyama quickly narrows the potential wife pool down to just one young lady named Yamasaki Asami. Aoyama is quite smitten with Asami, but it becomes more and more obvious to the reader that Asami is not a benign personality. The lovestruck blindness of Aoyama and the hidden nature of Asami is the vehicle for the tension that builds to the end.
I was a bit disappointed with the level of suspense (I wanted more) and felt like the character development was lopsided. Aoyama was fairly well developed and his background and motivations understandable, but Asami seemed simply a character with a role to fill in a book. The past that made her into a monster is revealed, but I never got the impression of a wounded soul. Asami is simply a monster, end of story. Perhaps this was Murakami's way of making a point that just didn't resonate with me. I was also baffled by what I perceived to be a very flippant ending. The translation was quite readable, but I'm wondering if there were subtleties that were lost by not reading the novel in the original Japanese.
While the story itself left me dissatisfied, I found a fascinating treatise on aspects of the Japanese dining experience. The community and harmony of sushi bar dining that can alternately be seen as exclusive and xenophobic. I wish I could quote this passage for you, but I've been asked not to quote from the Advanced Readers Copy. This passage occurs in Chapter 8.
Recommended: Fans of the movie will probably want to read the novel that inspired the film.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Added note: I would love to read any reviews of this title that others write, so let me know if you have read this book. I'm particularly interested in discussing the ending and Japanese conventions when writing the horror genre (since this might explain why I didn't like the ending!).