ISBN-13: 9780747578888
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Published: February 2006 (new edition)
192 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated by: Ralph McCarthy

At first glance of the cover, In The Miso Soup gave me the impression of a fiction about the Japanese culture but I knew there is something more than meets the eye with that cartoony image of a bowl of miso soup that looks like blood and reading the blurb confirmed my initial speculations of the book.

The story opens with the narrator introducing himself as a sex tour guide for foreigners and that he has no qualms about his job. However this does not mean that twenty-year-old Kenji is an insensitive and a selfish person; he does take pride in his job and he treasures his relationship with his sixteen-year-old girlfriend Jun.

Just before New Year's Day, he receives a telephone call from an American named Frank. Frank wants Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife for three nights and the money is too good for Kenji to pass up despite he has promised to spend the time with Jun.

When he meets up with Frank, the latter gives him the impression that something isn't quite right from his behaviour and on top of that, the things he said earlier doesn't seem to match when they have the same conversation the next time. With the recent case of a high school girl being hacked and the murderer is still at large, Kenji suddenly has this terrible thought that Frank might be the murderer.

In The Miso Soup is a highly intense psychological thriller I have ever read in a long time. I would compare my reading experience of this book to riding a roller coaster; the story seems to be moving at a moderate pace right from the beginning with the introduction of Kenji and then moving on to Frank's. The pace quickened towards the middle of the book and I have to say I'd never forget one terribly shocking scene when the author described in details how a few victims were gruesomely cut and left to die. If this story is to be told on the big screen I don't think I'd be able to watch it. I personally think that that scene is the climax of the story and that once I get past that, everything seems to be falling into place, literally.

But what I find so intriguing about this book is not the plot but the message behind it as it touches on subjects like moral corruption, lack of identity and then the loneliness one feels without the love and support of a family. Each of this issue poses a problem on its own but add them all up together and may become a psychological issue. Another subject that is thought-provoking is the "compensated dating" among Japanese high school girls. I can't judge them all, but what they do and the difficulties they encounter really makes me sad.

In the Miso Soup is not an easy read for me subject-wise but one that would definitely leave a deep impression on me given the author's straight-to-the-point writing style and one particularly gruesome scene.

Now that we are on the topic of Japanese literary, I'd like to bring your attention to the Japanese Literature Challenge 5 hosted by the lovely Dolce Bellezza. The requirement is to read one book from June 1, 2011 until January 30, 2012 but of course it'd be wonderful if you want to read more than one book.

I'm definitely joining and the book I'm most likely to read will be The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. I hope you'd join in the fun too!

9 Responses
  1. Mel u Says:

    I read Coin Locker Babies by the same author last year-I had mixed feelings on it-parts of the book seemed just an excuse to have x rated action but parts were a good look at the darker side of post WWII Japanese culture-I would for sure try another book by this author-I enjoyed your post a lot

  2. Veens Says:

    This sounds really intense. It is a great way about knowing more about Japanese authors. I am sure I will definitely look for a book by this author.

  3. Sandra Says:

    Glad to read your review, I thought Miso Soup was a graphic novel when I first saw the cover. It sounds really intense.
    I've just posted about this challenge too. I hope to read The Lake as well when my library gets it. I'll probably start with Oe's new book, The Changeling. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on what you read too.

  4. Ceri Says:

    Wow, this sounds incredible. It sounds really dark and intense and I don't read nearly enough Japanese literature as I should do. Would definitely give this a go. :D

  5. bermudaonion Says:

    I'm with Sandra, the cover of this book made me think it was a graphic novel. It sounds intense and disturbing, but also important.

  6. Iliana Says:

    Great review Melody. Although the cover has those images of blood I guess because of the graphic design and all I wouldn't have thought of it as an intense thriller. I do like a good psychological thriller so I'll have to put this one on my list!

  7. The Bookworm Says:

    This does sound like an intriguing read. From the cover, I wouldnt guess this was a psychological thriller. Nice review!

  8. Melody Says:

    Thanks, everyone! This was an intense read and I hope you all will check it out if you can. :)

  9. I Loved this book & also Transparent Blue by this writer. If you like this have you tried Hitomi Kanehara's Auto fiction

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