Friday, August 29, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Just when you think it can't get any worse ... it does. This novel is a great example of noir literature. It has the usual noir elements of darkness, despair, hopelessness and betrayal. Layered on top of this noir novel is a very black comedy of gender warfare.

A young mother, living in the Tokyo suburbs and working the night shift at a boxed lunch factory, wants out of her miserable marriage to a philandering and abusive husband. Her solution? Strangle him. Unfortunately, this solution creates a new problem ... a dead body that needs to disappear. Fortunately, this young mother has empathetic lady friends who are equally desperate to get "out" of their own miserable circumstances and are therefore willing to help dispose of the body.

Unfortunately for these ladies, they find that the nightmare has just begun and this one act has pulled them into the "violent underbelly of Japanese society." In usual noir-ish fashion, all does not end well and no solutions are offered to resolve the hostilities between the sexes.

This is not my favorite type of reading, but I thought the story was well done and was an excellent example of noir and black comedy. The translation, by Stephen Snyder, seemed extraordinarily good to me; I never once thought about the fact that I was reading the book in translation.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This title was read as part of the Japanese Literature Challenge II hosted by Bellezza.

Note to other reviewers: If you've written a review for this book, please let me know by posting the permanent URL for your review in the comments. I'll be happy to add a link to your review with my post.

Also reviewed at:
In Spring it is the Dawn (Tanabata)
Musings of a Bookish Kitty (Literary Feline)
Book Sanctuary (Tracey)
Dolce Bellezza


  1. I remember seeing this when trying to find reads for the challenge. I'm sorry it wasn't quite your type of book but it sounds like you enjoyed aspects of it nonetheless. I really like dark comedies in movies but don't really steer that way in my reading--not really sure why.

  2. trish: I'm with you, I like black comedy better on the screen and am not sure why it is more palatable to me than when I read it.

  3. I haven't really read much noir but I think I don't mind it if it's well-written as this book was. I totally agree with you about the translation. I'm hoping to read 'Grotesque' by Kirino this fall but it has a different translator so it'll be interesting to see how it compares.
    BTW, I've added a link to your review on mine.

  4. I am hoping to read this one soon. At least sometime before the end of the year. :-) Great review, Terri!

  5. I'm very curious about this one! I don't read many noir-ish books either, but I like a good dark tale every now and then.

  6. I want to be added to your list; but first I have to read it. Your review is so compelling!

  7. tanabata: I plan on reading Grotesque as well. I like how the author writes and tells her tale even if the subject matter is something I don't read often.

    literary feline & bellezza: Let me know if you post a review on this book so I can link! I'll probably catch it since I have you both on my reader, but it can't hurt to be reminded.

    nymeth: I'll look forward to what you think about this if you do read it. From reading your reviews of other books, I'm guessing you will be glad if you do read this one.

  8. Great review Terri and thank you for linking mine. I'm not sure that noir will be my thing either but I did really enjoy this one. Talk about one thing leading to another..!