Friday, 24 September 2010

In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

What a roller-coaster this book was.

Kenji is a taxi driver/tour guide for the sex district in Tokyo. If your visiting the city and you want someone to show you the best sex clubs/prostitutes etc. with a translator then Kenji is your man. When an overweight American called Frank hires Kenji for three nights over new years eve, it soon becomes obvious that Frank has murderous desires on his mind. What follows is a descent into evil and murder.

The picture of Tokyo that the author paints is a vivid one and he uses the guide Kenji to great effect as he also 'guides' the reader around the sex district and how large parts of it operate. The conversations between Kenji and Frank are quite compelling and its interesting to see sometimes how Frank knows more about Japanese culture than Kenji and Kenji knows more about some aspects of American culture. There is a lot of commentary on modern travel and life and Kenji muses on the loneliness among the American business travellers he guides (although it has to be said that the kind of Americans Kenji comes into contact with are going to be lonely to a certain extent.)

There is some quite shocking violence in the book but sometimes I found the violence a little too over the top to have realistic impact. The majority of the book follows Kenji as he become more suspicious of Frank who is an unnerving character. Unfortunately the book loses a little momentum during the second part but at only 180 pages it manages to fit a lot in there.

Would I recommend this? If your up for the violence and you want to try this particular Japanese writer then its be a good place to start.

Verdict 3/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I've been wanting to read this for a while, but I am a bit worried about the violence. I think I'll try it at some point, but perhaps not when I'm alone in the house at night :-)

  2. Jackie - The violence is not all through the book but rather its confined to one or two parts of the book (including a main event) most of it is tours of the sex district and conversations a musings from the two men. The violence when it does happen is quite big but Ive read worse.

  3. Everyone keeps telling me to read Murakami and I want to! I just have to make time! This one actually sounds like one I would like as well. You wrote a really fantastic review! It made me want to read the book, and oh...I like the cover of the book a lot. I'm guessing that it's a UK cover and that the American cover will look totally different. Bummer. I tend to like the UK covers of books more than the American covers.

  4. Not fond of too much violence in a maybe not for me.

  5. I'm going on holiday in a few days and I have Murakami's 69 in my pile of books to bring along. I've been wanting to read his stuff for a long time. Thanks for the review!

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  7. Have read this & a couple of others, quite enjoyed them the best one so far is "Almost Transparent Blue, or try Natsuo Kirino's "Out".

  8. Carin B. - I think this must be the UK cover which I have to admit really caught my eye. One of the US covers looks really seedy LOL

    Bibliophile By the Sea - I wouldnt recommend it in your case :)

    Pete - I havent heard of 69 so Ill check that out. I think the only other one Ive heard of by him is The Audition which they made into a film.

    Parrish lantern - thanks for the reviews - I will check those out.

  9. Everyone mention the violence in this book, I gather it must be horrific. I have vivid imaginations, if I read anything too graphic it tends to stay in my head for a long time.

    I'll give this a skip. Thanks for pre-empting me. :)

  10. I read the author's Coin Locker Babies not to long ago-it also has scenes that seem used for shock value-I thought it was a good look at the darker side of Modern Japanese life but would say not for those who like a lot of refinement in their reads!-I enjoyed your post a lot