Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Audition, by Ryu Murakami

Meh. That's my review.

My husband asked me how I had heard about this book, and I can't remember. I had it out of the library for awhile before I finally picked it up.

Audition is the story of a documentary film maker, Aoyama, who was widowed seven years before. His teenage son Shige suggests that he think about remarrying, so he decides to do just that.

He hatches a plan with his friend, Yoshikawa, to hold auditions for a movie so that he can screen dozens of women in the hopes of finding someone suitable for a wife. Through these fake film auditions, he meets Yamasaki Asami, and he becomes completely obsessed with lust. All he knows about her is that she had a difficult childhood. Of course, being Japan, the search for a wife means that he must find a docile, beautiful, elegant, obedient, and submissive woman. On the surface, Yamasaki Asami appears to fit the bill, but of course she turns out to be a sadistic murderer. This book was made into a cult film in Japan, which apparently was highly regarded as a great, creepy horror film (gets four stars on Amazon).

I was not impressed, for several reasons:
  • Shige seemed to be way too mature for a 16-year-old, in fact more mature than his father!
  • The first 3/4 of the book moves along very slowly, with seemingly unimportant details. In fact, it was boring. All of the action happens in the last two chapters, and of course you know what's going to happen. No suspense whatsoever.
  • The two male characters are completely shallow and misogynistic, which might have been part of Murakami's point...or they were just written as typical Japanese men with no irony whatsoever.
  • Yamasaki Asami compares having to give up ballet (because of an injury) to experiencing a death, and Aoyama finds this touching. I can't imagine that someone who has experienced the death of a loved one would find this comparison to be touching. On the contrary, it's heartless and clueless, like comparing the death of an animal to a death of a human child--to the grieving parent's face.
  • None of the characters were sympathetic. I didn't care what happened to any of them.
  • Aoyama was naive and disregarded all weird signs that something wasn't right. He was single-minded in his pursuit and no one could convince him to be suspicious. It just didn't seem realistic.
Ryu Murakami is called "Japan's master of the psycho-thriller," but I don't buy that. I've been disappointed in the Japanese fiction I've read recently, but even Out by Natsuo Kirino or Naoko by Keigo Higashino were stronger books than this one. Perhaps I'd prefer Murakami's other books, but I'm not rushing out to try them!

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