Nov 12, 2008

Book Review: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Title: Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Knopf (July 15, 2008)

How would you react to a writer who names her books Grotesque and Out? I read the latter some time ago and found it so fascinating, I readily picked up Real World, (by Natsuo Kirino of Tokyo) when I found it on the New Releases shelf at the library.

Out portrayed the lives of a group of women harassed at work and/or at home in a male dominated society. They support each other through thick and thin in an "unholy" alliance of women. They get even, as I remember it, and cover for one another.

This new book, Real World, is about four teenage girls who suspect a local boy of committing a murder and are curious enough about him that they go out of their way to befriend him. Two are bored with their humdrum lives and want to be part of a new "adventure," so they befriend the boy, helping him in his escape. This in spite of the fact that the murder is of his own mother.

One of the girls gives him her bike and a new cell phone. Another takes the train to join him for a time while he runs from the authorities, paying for a cheap hotel where he can take a bath and get some sleep. A third is coerced into writing a "story or poem" of confession for him, which he wants to carry around in case he is ever caught by the police and has to answer to them. They all carry on conversations with the boy by cell phone.

The boy fantasizes that he is the Japanese soldier he saw in a film in grade school, a soldier being beaten and stabbed by an old Filipino woman and a man, evidently as a revenge for the Japanese occupation during WWII. This image seems to haunt him, and he sees his own demanding and nagging mother as the Filipino woman.

The four teenage girls who are curious about the boy and the 17 year old boy himself try to escape the reality of their lives, humdrum or horrific. They feel that what people see on the outside is different from what they are.

Real World is another noir novel by Kirino, this time about teens facing the consequences of the decisions they make.
***** Five stars for this novel!


  1. I am amazed that a county with as many educated people it has, finds women unable to get medical care, because the needed doctor is a male. They cannot appear in public alone or even drive a car. It is not 'protection' but total isolation of the female in their society. There are those who are trying to test the waters for change... I wish them luck.

  2. Blue Heron, although the Japanese psyche is undoubtedly different (and sometimes even bizzare) from most cultures, I feel that some of these eccentricities are actually part of their artistic charm. But as for the general Japanese mentality towards women, I do hope that the country continue to progressively evolve in this matter. In any case, it should be noted that many Middle-eastern countries are far worse with regards to human rights and their treatment of women.

    About the book, what can I say but that Natsuo Kirino is hauntingly-brilliant. Her works are no doubt works of excellence, and yet every tale seems to be enveloped in highly thought-provoking ideas and revelations.

  3. I didn't really care for Grotesque but I loved Out so I'm glad to see you really enjoyed this one.

  4. It's a sad story. Oh my, killing a parent is very serious. Not sure how I like friends pretending friendship in order to catch him. It seems like an interesting book.


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