01 February 2013

Imprint Friday: Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Picador USA. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

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.

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.
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.

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.

Picador USA is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, visit the Picador's website. While there, take a look at the Picador book club and reading guides and sign up for their newsletters. For up-to-date news, don't miss their Tumblr site or Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

Buy Revenge at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Macmillan / Picador 2013
ISBN-13: 9780312674465

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Unknown 2/1/13, 6:47 AM  

Wow, kind of creepy first thing in the morning. Not familiar with this author, I adore how you educate and broaden my reading horizons!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 2/1/13, 7:10 AM  

I love the sound of these stories. I have a copy and can't wait to delve in.

Sandy Nawrot 2/1/13, 7:15 AM  

This sounds like something right up my alley.

Julie P. 2/1/13, 8:17 AM  

Very interesting but I'm not sure they are for me. I'm a wimp!

Jenn's Bookshelves 2/1/13, 8:46 AM  

Great minds think alike :)

JoAnn 2/1/13, 9:58 AM  

Another book for my wish list - thanks!

Beth Hoffman 2/1/13, 11:19 AM  

You have totally hooked me!

Zibilee 2/1/13, 11:36 AM  

I, too, loved her first book, and vowed that I would read anything else that she published after reading it, so this is a no-brainer for me. I do think it sounds dark, but I am glad to hear that that it was more than that, and that you loved it. I can't wait to grab a copy for myself!!

Daryl 2/1/13, 12:03 PM  

sounds a bit like The Imperfectionista in structure

Daryl 2/1/13, 12:04 PM  

not Imperfectionista .. Imperfectionist GAH

Ali 2/1/13, 3:20 PM  

I really enjoyed The Housekeeper and the Professor. Good to know she has a new one out. Whether it's a novel or collection of short stories (I'd vote for the latter, based on your description) it sounds like it's worth reading.

bermudaonion 2/1/13, 3:58 PM  

I don't think I've ever read any Japanese fiction but I do own The Housekeeper and the Professor. I think I'll try that before getting this one.

Jenners 2/5/13, 8:18 PM  

Japanese fiction is always unique and interesting and usually disturbing at some level. I'll have to check this out.

Mel u 2/15/13, 6:51 AM  

I read and really enjoyed this collection of dark stories also. Your excellent post does a very good job creating the feel of the stories,very understated feeling of horror.

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