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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
All She Was Worth by Miyabe Miyuki 
24th-Sep-2007 12:47 am
Miyabe, Miyuki. All She Was Worth. Trans. Alfred Birnbaum. 1996. New York: Mariner, 1999.
          Summary: Originally titled Kasha. Honma, a detective on leave, is recruited to locate his relative's missing fiancée Shoko. He soon realizes that "Shoko" isn't Shoko at all but rather a woman named Kyoko who appears to have murdered the real Shoko to assume her identity and flee the spectre of financial debt. After much investigation into the past lives of both women, Honma is able to locate Kyoko.
          Comments: According to the author bio on the back cover, this novel "won the prestigious Shugoro Yamamoto Prize and was named Best Mystery and Best Novel of the Year in Japan"--and, yes, it wholly deserves its acclaim. The plotting is tight and provocative, and even casual readers will have a hard time putting this one down. Better still, the English translation is superb; for the most part, I didn't even feel like I was reading a translation! I would go so far as I say, in fact, that when it comes to great translations of contemporary Japanese fiction, Kodansha (publisher of the original edition of this particular translation) is awfully tough to beat. (Kodansha was also the original source of the other must-read mystery/thriller written by a woman where a female murderer dismembers a body in order to dispose of it, Kirino Natsuo's Out.)
          The otaku amongst us may well recognize the name "Miyabe Miyuki" for her much later novel for young people, Brave Story, which has since been adapted into a manga available in the US from TOKYOPOP and animated by GONZO. DO NOT assume, therefore, that All She Was Worth is light novel material or that its subject matter is to be taken lightly. The way rampant consumer culture and the debt that it engenders can drive a woman to kill another and assume her identity is a deadly serious critique of modern society. Indeed, Kyoko/Shoko's utter alienation in the novel--not to mention how the author explicitly avoids giving the reader the slightest genuine glimpse into her inner world--is, for group-oriented Japan, the harshest criticism of all.
          Notes: trade paperback, 6th printing; first published in Japan by Futabasha in 1992
          Rating: 8/10 - There aren't that many contemporary Japanese novels available in English that could be considered "genre fiction," and fewer still that should be required reading. This is one of those few.
24th-Sep-2007 07:36 am (UTC)
Miyabe, Miyuki. All She Was Worth

That one's been sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read for months. I guess I really should read it!
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