Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.

Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.

An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.

Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

David’s Haunted Library: 3 Down

25705430Heidi was at a crossroads in life, she was recently divorced and she just moved into a new condo. She had a little house-warming party which is where things start to go dreadfully wrong. She didn’t realize she had a stalker or that the stalker has people helping him. To make matters worse the stalker has invented a love potion and he knows how to handle his victims. After a new start, Heidi’s world is crashing down around her and the only help she has is from her friend Jane.

In order to survive her stalker’s plan of revenge, Heidi has to start to think like a killer and become something she never thought she would be. She is also going to have to learn to hide dead bodies because they are starting to pile up and she can’t trust the police.

3 Down by Chris Grams would be best described as a cat and mouse game where the hunter and the prey roles keep changing. When I first started reading it I thought it was too bizarre and far-fetched. The book starts with a murder and torture scene and then we find out how the murder victim is someone Heidi knows. We then get into Heidi being brutally attacked, which was a real hard scene to read. What I really took issue with though is how all the characters are tied together. It seemed too convenient and made me almost put the book down. For instance, the way we find out how two of the people who are part of the revenge plot are very close to Jane seemed a little odd. Also, there is a scene where a third victim just happens to run into Jane and Heidi and becomes part of their plan. At this point I found myself thinking: “are they going to tell everyone what they are doing.”

Little by little though I got drawn in and liked how the characters changed personalities. You see Heidi go from being a vulnerable victim to being a resourceful murderer. You also see Jane prove that she is a strong woman who can handle anything. I also like how the stalker/killer is portrayed. We see that he is narcissistic and pure evil and we get a good glimpse into what makes him tick. Though as strong and over-confident as he is, we also get to see what happens when he pushes two strong women too far.

3 Down has its flaws but its an entertaining read. It’s a good murder mystery with several wicked twists and turns. My favorite scene was during and after when Heidi gets attacked and the range of emotions she goes through. A little later on Jane has a scene with an attacker that is just as good and is the most suspenseful part of the book. Chris Grams even adds a little subtle humor in the book, I found myself laughing at how Heidi and Jane are acting so nonchalant about carrying dead bodies in their car, even stopping to have coffee before they dispose of them. If murder and mayhem are your thing or you ever wanted to know what goes through the mind of a murderer then this book is for you.