Melody
ISBN-13: 9781846554032
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Published: April 2010
164 pgs
Translated from the Japanese by: Stephen Snyder
Source: Personal Library




I mentioned in my review of The Diving Pool that I am interested to read The Housekeeper and the Professor, since I have heard nothing but raves about that book but I am ashamed to admit that I have not got around to reading it, yet. I picked up Yoko Ogawa's Hotel Iris from the bookstore last week and decided I would read this first since it is a thin book and the premise sounds intriguing.

Frankly speaking, I do not know what to say about this book. The theme surrounding the story is dark and disturbing. It explores the emotions and mentality of the 17-year-old Mari and an unnamed middle-aged man (usually referred to as 'the translator' due to his work) after their short encounter at Hotel Iris.

Mari's mother runs Hotel Iris single-handed after the death of Mari's father and grandfather, and Mari helps at the counter and run little errands as and when necessarily. She finds her life routine and boring, but all that change after she stumbled upon the unnamed middle-aged man. He had created a commotion in the hotel but instead of turning her off, she is intrigued and mersmerised by the tone of his voice. They became friends ultimately, but no one knew of their acquaintance and they wanted to keep their relationship a secret anyway. Mari will find ways to go to his cottage which is situated in an island, and the unnamed man will always have something planned during her visit. It is as if he has turned into a monster when Mari is alone in his house, where he would do anything to her, including tying her up and made her do the most unthinkable things. It is not a comfortable read, but yet I read on because I was hoping that Mari would come to her senses eventually.

The story took a turn when the unnamed man's nephew enter into the picture, but I felt it rather abrupt and could not really decipher the feelings between him and Mari. Without a doubt, Hotel Iris is a character-driven story; it is a story that allows readers to take a glimpse of a person's dark side and what he/she will do under certain circumstances. While writing this review, I am still not sure of my feelings towards Mari. Should I sympathise with her for being a victim to the translator's sadistic demand, or should I criticise her for degrading herself?

Also, does Mari attraction towards the translator has something to do with the loss of her father? And does the translator seek solace and security in Mari because he too had lost his wife, something which he has in common with Mari? These are the questions I had asked myself after closing the book.

As for the ending, I guess it is up to the readers to decide if it is for the good or for the bad but let's just say it will linger in your mind for a while.

Other reviews:
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11 Responses
  1. Julia Says:

    That seem like a heavy dark story to read. Not sure if I would pick this one because it too disturbing. Thanks for the interesting review, Melody :)


  2. dArLyN Says:

    I'm agree with Julia.Normally I would avoid reading a too creepy and dark story.Thanks for the review Melody. =)


  3. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    Wow, well you certainly deliver! You just teased me, and now I got the review! What a plot though! With dark, mucky books like this, I am always torn between great writing and the intensity, and whether I can enjoy something like that. Great job with the review!


  4. bermudaonion Says:

    I generally don't like ambiguous endings, but this one sounds like it's done well.


  5. Jaimie Says:

    Great review Melody! When I'm in the mood for something dark, there is nothing like one from Japan. They are so good at that genre! I hope that's not racial profiling because seriously I am in awe of them! I would love to read this book but also know the mood would have to be just right.


  6. pinkilili Says:

    Thanks for the great review - sounds very disturbing but interesting..


  7. Iliana Says:

    Oh this sounds interesting. And, it sounds like a darker read than the other book right? I still haven't read it either but now I want to read both! Thanks for the review, Melody.


  8. Violet Says:

    This story seems weird and interesting at the same time. Thanks for the review.


  9. Melody Says:

    Julia & Darlyn - Though the story is dark and disturbing, the author managed to capture the emotions and the thoughts of these two protagonists are facing. I know their relationship is viewed unthinkable, but it's scary to know they do happen in real life.

    Sandy - I agree it's hard to read books with such an issue, especially when it's so disturbing. That's why when it comes to books like these, I make sure I like the author's prose and writing style.

    Kathy - I don't know about other readers, but sometimes I do like ambiguous endings. :P

    Jaimie - I agree with you on that!

    Pinkilili - Thanks!

    Iliana - Yes, this is the darkest book I've read so far by Yoko Ogawa. I don't think The Housekeeper and the Professor has a dark theme?

    Violet - Yes, and that's why I was drawn to it (the interesting part I mean). ;)


  10. Alice Teh Says:

    This is another one by Yoko Ogawa that I want to read! I'm currently reading The Housekeeper and the Professor and am almost done with it. The mathematical bits really made it interesting. Love the book!


  11. stacybuckeye Says:

    I loved the Housekeeper & the Professor and would love to read more from the author. Great review.