Out by Natsuo Kirino

Out (Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder) First published in Japan in 1997 by Kodansha Ltd. First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Vintage. IBSN: 9780099472285. 522 pages.

Out revolves around four women struggling to stay financially and emotionally afloat under very difficult circumstances. They work the night shift on an assembly line preparing boxed lunches at a food processing factory in a Tokyo suburb. It’s a back-breaking job, but the pay is good. Each one has her own reason to work out of sync from the rest of the world.

The leader of the line, Masako Katori, is in her late forties. Her skills are rather wasted. She lives in isolation with a husband who is locked up in his room and a son who won’t spell a word.

Kuniko Jonouchi is twenty-nine and sees herself ugly and fat. A faction victim, she is heavily in debt. She wishes to be a different woman, living a different life, in a different place, with a different man. Her live-in partner has just abandoned her.

Yoshie Azuma, “the Skipper”, a widow in her late fifties has to take care of her invalid mother-in-law, a teenage daughter and a grandson. She can hardly sleep and she can hardly make it until pay day.

Yayoi Yamamoto, the most attractive woman on the night shift, is thirty-four. She is a married woman with two small kids, ages five and three. Her good-for-nothing husband is an alcoholic that beats her.

One night Yayoi strangles her husband out of range because he has lost gambling all their savings. In desperation she turns to Masako for help. She doesn’t want to go to the police since she doesn’t feel like having done anything wrong.

Not sure why Masako decides to help her. Her plan is to cut up the body put the pieces in garbage bags and spread them all around Tokyo. Somehow Yoshie and Kuniko manage to get involved in this macabre plan with the promise of getting paid for. But due to the negligent behaviour of Kuniko the police find some bags and the body can be identified.

The main suspect is Mitsuyoshi Satake the owner of the casino where Yayoi’s husband used to gamble, but he is finally released due to lack of evidence. Having lost his reputation Satake is then determined to find the real murderer and to have his own revenge.

This is quite a bleak story and the novel is heavy going to say the least. I found it too lengthy, unnecessarily lengthy. There are passages that can get a bit tedious and are sometimes repetitive, almost monotonous. And the final is very disappointing.

Out (1997) received the Grand Prix for Crime Fiction, Japan’s top mystery award, and was a finalist (in English translation) for the 2004 Edgar Award.

Natsuo Kirino is the nom de plume of Mariko Hashioka (1951) a leading figure in the recent boom of female writers of Japanese detective fiction.

Out is my second contribution covering Asia to Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge.



Natsuo Kirino Official Site

Natsuo Kirino Wikipedia

Out Wikipedia


Complete Review

The Guardian

Reactions to Reading

5 thoughts on “Out by Natsuo Kirino”

  1. >Ignacio – Thanks for this review. I'd from other sources, too, that Out was bleak and overlong. Your review has made me think that I won't be in a big rush to read this…

  2. >I've had this one on my shelf for a while, but because of what I have read about its cold cruelty, I've been a bit scared to read it.I very much enjoyed reading your review, as Margot says, it does not encourage me to rush to read the book – but I find your review very interesting. I had not, for example, realised that the book is written by a woman.

  3. >I felt much the same about this book when I read it last year – I wondered what all the fuss had been about as I just found it boring. One comment on my blog mentioned that it was considered quite revolutionary for a Japanese woman to be able to say such things about their own society and to depict Japanese women in such a way so that explained why it had received such praise inside Japan but I still couldn't find much to be positive about as a reading experience for anyone else.

  4. >Vaya por dios cada vez me es mas dificil seguir este blog, ahora lo escribes todo en ingles? las traducciones del traductor de google son como si leyeras a un aprendiz de español mezclando concepts y tiempos un verdadero caos, por eso ultimamente me paso menos por aqui, pero este libro lo tengo en mi mesita de noche y queria saber que tal, no creas que me enterado de mucho, pero tengo claro que no te ha gustado, te ha parecido excesivo y repetitivo, a ver cuando lo lea que me parece

  5. >Carmina – Gracias por tu comentario. Se que mi opinión va en contra de la mayoría. En cualquier caso, me encantará ver la tuya. La historia es bastante cruda y la novela por no decir más es pesada. La encontré demasiado larga, innecesariamente larga. Existen pasajes que pueden resultar algo tediosos y, en ocasiones repetitivos, casi monótonos. El final es muy decepcionante.

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