No 672 Out by Natsuo Kirino

 

out-natsuo-kirino

 

Natsuo Kirino’s Out is a gritty grimy tale of what people are capable of when pushed to their limits. Or more importantly, it is about what women can do when their circumstances become too much to bear.

Masako, Yayoi, Yoshie and Kuniko work together on the night shift in a boxed-lunch factory. Each has her own problems, spirally debt and violent husbands, the pressure of being a carer and ungrateful offspring. Their roles as mother, daughter or wife are proving unfulfilling and the work they are doing is unsociable and back-breaking.

Something has to give.

And when it does, it unleashes a world that these four women could never have imagined.
One night, when Yayoi discovers that her husband, Kenji, has lost their entire savings at a nightclub where he is infatuated with one of the hostesses she is pushed to her limits and strangles him with her belt. Turning to her friends for help, she enlists them (with the promise of money) to get rid of his body but chopping it up and disposing of the body parts in the garbage in and around Tokyo while she pretends he has left her.

When pieces of Kenji are finally found and Satake, the night club owner who fought with Kenji is arrested and a life insurance policy is about to pay out, the four women think they are free but they are about to spiral into a world of violence, revenge, blackmail and backstabbing.

The story of Out is a pretty unrealistic one. Would these women really risk everything for a work colleague? Not only that, would an ordinary woman so easily agree to cut up a body in her own bathroom? One of the women, Yoshie, sees the job is stark terms, just taking what she does in normal life one big step further

I always seem to be doing the jobs nobody else is willing to do…

If you go with this rather unbelievable premise, Out is a great read. Mainly because the story is less a slice of realism and more a frame upon which to hang a political discussion about the lives of women in Japanese society today.

All the women are taken for granted, by their partners and their families. Masako, who worked in finance, was laid off for speaking her mind. Kuniko, who is addicted to buying clothes and cosmetics is constantly reminded that she is not pretty enough to find work in a bar. Even Satake’s beautiful girlfriend Anna knows she has about five years left as a hostess before she too is consigned to working in much less glamorous surroundings. These are women without hope. And more dangerously, they are women with nothing to lose.

As the situation closes in around them and the novel sets up a denouement that pitches Masako against Satake, the women come to realise what it is they truly want from life and in some ways come to understand who they truly are and their subsequent fates appear to mirror their personalities. As the English title suggests, their trues selves are brought out. Masako, the strongest of the four from the beginning, finds within herself a strength of will that would have been unimaginable before and realises that this is her one and only chance to get out.

As she listened to Yoshie’s litany of woes, she felt as though they were all stuck in a long tunnel with no sign of the exit in sight. She just wanted out, to be free of everything. None of it mattered any more. Anyone who couldn’t get out was doomed to a life of endless bitching – the life they were leading now

The book is unapologetically violent and disturbing, but in some ways it has to be. To fully comprehend the unhappiness of these women, we have to see what they are willing to do in an attempt to alleviate that unhappiness. Kirino does not judge these women (except perhaps the disloyal Kuniko), that is left to us and as such, Out is less of a crime novel and more of an examination of forgotten lives in a society that prizes youth and wealth above all else.

 

4 Out, 16 In

4 Out, 16 In

 

20 Books of Summer: 4/20

Number Read: 75

Number Remaining: 671

 

20 Books of Summer 2015!

20 books of summer - master image

It’s hard to believe a year has passed, but there are hints of a change in the weather here in Ireland and I’ve decided to challenge myself again this year to read my 20 Books of Summer!

Last year I managed a mere 16 ½ books, so hopefully I can beat that record this time round.

When I started trying to decide on my 20 Books, I had an idea. At the start of 746 Books, the aim was to read what I had, save some money by not buying books and clear some space by reading what was in the house. And I have managed to read what I have and save some money but over the last 18 months though, I’ve come to realise that I mostly read on my iPad, so the piles in the house are still there, mocking me.

So, this summer, I will only read physical books. It’s a bit daunting, because it removes the opportunity to read on my phone, but it will be nice to spend some time reconnecting with some real, actual books for a change! Plus, I might have a clear shelf by September!

So, starting from 1 June and running until 4 September, I’m hoping to read 20 actual books. 7 a month, I can do that, right? Like last year I’ve gone for as broad a range of genres and books as I can and like last year I have included a rock star memoir, a trashy 70s classic, and some sneaky short plays, poetry collections and short stories!

Photo: drbimages

Photo: drbimages

I won’t be reading in any particular order and be warned, reviews may be shorter than usual – I’ve still a job and a couple of twins to look after you know!

So, here are my 20 Books of Summer, click on the titles for a link to their Goodreads description:

I’m going to keep a Master post at the start of the blog so you can follow my progress as books get crossed off the list and if anyone feels their reading needs a bit of oomph then why not join me? Just take the Books of Summer image, pick your own 10 or 20 books you’d like to read and link below.  I’d love your support and I’ve provided a 10 Books image in case 20 seems too daunting! I’ll be tweeting my way through the challenge as well using the hastag #20booksofsummer.

10 books

So, any thoughts on my choices? Have you read any of my 20? Any I should start with straight away, or save for later? Any I’m going to regret putting on the list? I’d love to hear what you think.