Book Review: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

Kenji is a Japanese tour guide specialising in sex tours of Tokyo’s nightlife. Frank is an overweight american looking for some fun. Over new year’s eve, both venture into the cold streets of Tokyo, discovering what the city has to offer. What could go wrong?

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This book is a perfect holiday read if your thing are short books, and a bit of horror. I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to horror, but this was absolutely fine. The fist part of the book is superb; the author manages to capture the awkwardness of the characters, and the stillness of the town. You feel like you understand Kenji and his worryness but you also get curious to know more about Frank.

The second act is sadly where this book fails considerabiliy. Where the opening act made you feel part of the story, the second act felt unreal and disconnected. The characters started to fall apart and you didn’t know where to laugh or cry. I do think the fact that this book is translated from the Japanese affects some of the story telling as it heavily relies on Japanse culture and symbolism, so I do wonder how Japanese-speakers feel about the second act.

The third act finally pulls it together and manages to save what it can from the story and bring it to a rather nostalgic ending.

The cover of the book makes a reference to American Psycho and I can see why. The horror is part psychological but mainly bloody, and Frank does have hints of Bateman. Even though the book is very small, I do not think it cut corners when it came to story telling but it does feel in some parts that the author simply is looking for ways to fill the pages.

Would I recommend it? I don’t think I would. The novel won the Yomiuri Prize for Fiction in 1997 so I guess I should like it, but it lacks originality and the tone change in the second act is too great to dismiss.

I would give this book a 3 our of 5.

3-stars

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