Friday, January 11, 2008

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Title: Out
Author: Natsuo Kirino
ISBN: 9780099492689
Publisher: Vintage Books
No. of pages: 520
Rating: 7/10

Synopsis (from Amazon):
In the Tokyo suburbs four women work the draining graveyard shift at a boxed-lunch factory. Burdened with chores and heavy debts and isolated from husbands and children, they all secretly dream of a way out of their dead-end lives. A young mother among them finally cracks and strangles her philandering, gambling husband then confesses her crime to Masako, the closest of her colleagues. For reasons of her own, Masako agrees to assist her friend and seeks the help of the other co-workers to dismember and dispose of the body. The body parts are discovered, the police start asking questions, but the women have far more dangerous enemies -a yakuza connected loan shark who discovers their secret and has a business proposition, and a ruthless nightclub owner the police are convinced is guilty of the murder. He has lost everything as a result of their crime and he is out for revenge. Out is a psychologically taut and unflinching foray into the darkest recesses of the human soul, an unsettling reminder that the desperate desire for freedom can make the most ordinary person do the unimaginable.

I was expecting Out to be far more graphic and violent than I found it to be, but that's not to say I was disappointed. There's excitement of a sort, set against the mundane lives of four factory workers. The sharp contrast between the boredom of the factory and the harsh realities of dealing with a dead body make this quite a dark piece, especially when you realise that for some, there is very little difference in what they are doing.

There are some moments that are almost humorous (albeit of the blackest kind of humour), and others that are almost confusing, but things play out pretty much as expected, with only a few spanners thrown into the works. Strangely, the one character I enjoyed most was Jumonji - a colourful character who combined cowardice and courage (of a sort) and really stood out from the drabness of the others.

The fact that all the characters seem to tread a very fine line between dark and light, right and wrong, sane and psychotic, makes Out an intriguing read that doesn't let itself be pigeon-holed too readily - part crime fiction, part kitchen-sink drama, part sisterhood/female bonding chick-lit - it's an odd combination, but it works.


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