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Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from
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I've always liked Japanese fiction and was taken by the simple beauty of Yoko Ogawa's writing in The Housekeeper and the Professor. When I heard Picador was publishing a new collection of her stories, I couldn't wait to get reading. The cover of Revenge I show here, calls the work "a novel." But the advanced reader's copy that I have calls it "eleven dark tales." Before I get into that issue, here's the publisher's summary:
Sinister forces collide--and unite a host of desperate characters--in this eerie cycle of interwoven tales from Yoko Ogawa, the critically acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.While there is no question these tales are dark, Revenge is not a book of horror, nor is it exactly depressing. And although I could relate to some of Ogawa's characters, there a couple whom I'd not want to meet or cross. Murder, death, and loss fill the pages, but so do personal relationships and a deep humanity.
An aspiring writer moves into a new apartment and discovers that her landlady has murdered her husband. Elsewhere, an accomplished surgeon is approached by a cabaret singer, whose beautiful appearance belies the grotesque condition of her heart. And while the surgeon’s jealous lover vows to kill him, a violent envy also stirs in the soul of a lonely craftsman. Desire meets with impulse and erupts, attracting the attention of the surgeon’s neighbor--who is drawn to a decaying residence that is now home to instruments of human torture. Murderers and mourners, mothers and children, lovers and innocent bystanders--their fates converge in an ominous and darkly beautiful web.
Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge is a master class in the macabre that will haunt you to the last page.
I particularly loved the way the stories interconnected to create a complete circle. In some cases, the connection was only a small detail, such as strawberry shortcake or a tiger, and it was like finding a treasure when I spotted the link. Other stories are much more solidly part of the whole, creating a strong foundation for the book. For example, we learn of a married man in an early story and meet his wife in a late one, and in this way Ogawa binds several plot points together.
Do such bridges make a collection of stories a novel? I'm not sure, but I don't think it matters very much. Each tale in Revenge propelled me forward and kept me focused on both the overarching themes as well as the links. Although the stories could be read singly, it would be a mistake. Ogawa has ordered them very carefully, taking us back and across through time, developing tension and keeping our curiosity alive. By the end, we're back to the beginning and may even start reading a second time.
As many others have pointed out, Yoko Ogawa is a master at pulling us deep into fray and then rescuing us through perfectly timed pauses that let us focus on the beauty of everyday life. Revenge is no exception: From the dreadful plans of the bag-maker to the sights and sounds of the square outside the bakery, Ogawa captures our attention, and we're lost in her strange, dark world.
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Published by Macmillan / Picador 2013
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